What Is Adenoid Hypertrophy?

A human head with the adenoids in red and yellow.
Doctors may check the tonsils for signs of infection.
A scalpel may be used during an adenoidectomy.
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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 03 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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The adenoids are sections of soft tissue found at the back of the nasal cavities where they meet the pharynx. Like tonsils, adenoids help to stop harmful bacteria and airborne pathogens from entering the airways and causing infections. When the adenoids themselves are infected, they become inflamed and enlarged in a condition known as adenoid hypertrophy. Adults and children who experience multiple sinus infections, chronic snoring, and worsening breathing problems should be evaluated by physicians to check for adenoid hypertrophy and discuss treatment options.

Adenoid hypertrophy is a natural part of early airway development. The adenoids continue to grow from birth to around the age of seven, and then gradually start to shrink. Most young children do not experience symptoms during the natural growth and shrinking phases. Repeat staphylococci, streptococci, or Epstein-Barr infections at any age, however, can cause adenoid inflammation and swelling that lead to hypertrophy.

Small pockets called crypts develop in the adenoids as they are damaged, which act as reservoirs for pathogens. As the adenoids continue to enlarge and bacteria or viruses build up in the crypts, chronic sinusitis and recurring inner ear infections become common. People typically experience frequent nasal congestion problems, sinus headaches, and ear pain. Constricted nasal airways can lead to loud snoring and possibly sleep apnea. Without treatment, adenoid swelling can become severe enough to cause serious breathing difficulties.

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A primary care physician or pediatrician can check for signs of adenoid hypertrophy by using a specialized mirror device to look at the tissue. Neck x-rays may be taken to evaluate the degree of pharynx obstruction. The doctor might also collect a scraping of tissue from the throat or adenoids to check for specific bacteria or viruses.

After confirming a diagnosis, the doctor can determine the best course of treatment. Antibiotics and decongestants are usually prescribed to ease symptoms of sinusitis and ear infections. If the adenoids continue to cause problems despite taking medications, the physician can consider a surgical procedure called an adenoidectomy. Performed by an ear, nose, and throat surgeon, an adenoidectomy involves excising the entire mass of tissue with a scalpel or a cauterizing laser.

Since adenoid hypertrophy is often accompanied by tonsil swelling, a tonsillectomy may be performed as well. Following surgery, a patient usually needs to take antibiotics for two to four weeks to promote fast tissue healing. Most children and adults who have their adenoids and tonsils removed enjoy quick, full recoveries.

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Discuss this Article

dougpeng
Post 4

I am a 45 year old Chinese male who has chronic swelling of my adenoids in the nasophyranx. I found out from my ENT that Chinese men of my age group (in particular from southern China's Pearl Delta Area such as Hong Kong, Shenzen, Guangzhou) have an extremely high rate of nasopharyngeal cancer. Hence, if you are in this demographic group, you should get yourself checked out by an ENT if you have enlarged or swollen adenoids. The ENT uses a fiber optic scope to see it, and I get checked up annually just in case.

anon278566
Post 3

What color is a normal enlarged adult adenoid?

Tomislav
Post 2

@tolleranza - In addition to adenoid hypertrophy, adenoids can become inflamed just as I'm sure your husband’s tonsils did. And just as that was called tonsillitis, that's an easy way to remember to look for this condition too, because it is called adenoiditis.

So get to know the color of your husband's adenoids, and then you should be able to see the difference. But the safest thing to do is - take him to the doctor - especially considering his history of tonsillitis.

tolleranza
Post 1

My husband had tonsillitis for months, and before that had tonsillitis at least once a year. And it was the type of tonsillitis that absolutely put him out of commission.

Needless to say he had to have his tonsils removed, via tonsil removal surgery and I will just say this much...having your tonsils out as an adult is much different in comparison to having them out as a child. I think this is because they are not fully done growing when you are a child.

Since he does still have his adenoids, I am keeping a watch on the poor guy's adnoids to see if now that his tonsils are out that his adenoids don't start becoming infected. Anyone have any suggestions of what to look for in addition to over-sized adenoids?

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