Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils.
The adenoids and the tonsils are the body’s first line of defense in the immune system. They are similar to the lymph nodes (glands) that are found in your groin, armpits, and neck.
The tonsils are found in the back of the throat— they are the two round lumps back there.
The adenoids are found high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (the soft palate); they are not visible through the nose or mouth without the use of special instruments, though.
Bacteria and viruses get “sampled” when they enter through the mouth or nose; during this process, the tonsils sometimes become infected. Also during this process, sometimes the tonsils become a liability rather than an asset. Airway obstruction or repeated bacterial infections can occur. In this case, our ENT specialists in Johns Creek, Suwanee, or Lawrenceville can provide the best treatment.
What Affects Tonsils and Adenoids?
Two of the most common problems that affect tonsils and adenoids are:
recurrent infections of the throat and nose
significant enlargement— this can cause nasal obstruction and/or swallowing, breathing, and sleep problems
Other problems that may affect the tonsils and adenoids include:
abscesses around the tonsils
infections of the small pockets within the tonsils—this can produce foul smelling, white deposits
What are the Symptoms of Tonsillitis?
a slight voice change due to the swelling
a yellow or white coating on the tonsils
redder than normal tonsils
sore throat (occasionally accompanied by ear pain)
swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
painful or uncomfortable swallowing
When Should You See a Doctor?
If you or a child are experiencing symptoms of infected or enlarged tonsils or adenoids, schedule an appointment with our doctors. During that appointment, we can discuss your symptoms, conduct an examination, and evaluate your tonsils and adenoids.
There are several different ways we can check the tonsils and adenoids:
Using a small mirror or a flexible, lighted instrument to see those areas
Conducting a physical examination
Reviewing your medical history
Performing a throat culture/strep test (these tests can help us determine if there is an infection in the throat)
Ordering x-rays (these help us determine the shape and the size of the adenoids)
Performing a sleep study (called a polysomnogram— this helps us determine if sleep disturbances occur due to large adenoids and tonsils)
How are Tonsil and Adenoid Diseases Treated?
There are 3 ways to treat tonsillitis and adenoid diseases:
tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils)
adenoidectomy (removal of the adenoids)
Antibiotics are first used if bacterial infections of the tonsils are caused by streptococcus.
If there are recurrent infections (despite antibiotic therapy), and/or difficulty breathing due to enlarged tonsils/adenoids, a tonsillectomy or an adenoidectomy may be needed. Obstruction can lead to snoring and disturbed sleep patterns, which can then lead to daytime sleepiness, and behavioral/school performance problems in children.
If the adenoids become chronically infected, other areas can get affected, such as the eustachian tube (the passageway between the back of the nose and the inside of the ear). If this happens, frequent ear infections and temporary hearing loss may occur due to the building up fluid in the middle ear. There are various studies that conclude that the removal of adenoids can help some children with chronic earaches accompanied by fluid in the middle ear (known as otitis media with effusion).
Another reason for removing the adenoids and tonsils can include cancer or a tumor in adults. Even though uncommon, cancers of the tonsils require an early diagnosis along with aggressive treatment.
Lastly, for patients who have infectious mononucleosis, severe enlargement can cause airway obstruction, which means steroids (i.e. prednisone) could be used for treatment.
How to Prepare for Surgery
There are different ways to prepare for surgery, depending on whether you are a child or an adult. We will present preoperative care for children and adults.
Ask your otolaryngologist, at any point, if you have questions regarding the surgery.
Let your child know that he or she will most likely have a sore throat after the surgery, but medication will help decrease the soreness.
Spend time with your child as much as possible before and after the surgery.
Explain to your child that the procedure will make them healthier.
Talk to your child about his/her feelings. Provide reassurance and support; reassure him/her that the procedure will not remove important parts of the body, and that he/she will not look differently after the procedure.
You may want to speak with a friend or a family member who had a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy.
Never give aspirin to your child due to the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome.
Approximately 2 weeks before your surgery date, do not take aspirin or medications containing aspirin.
Your doctor may have you stop taking other medications if he/she thinks they may interfere with blood clotting.
If you ever had issues with blood clotting and/or anesthesia, let your surgeon know.
If you are taking medications, have a bleeding disorder, are pregnant, have concerns regarding a blood transfusion, or have sickle cell anemia, let your surgeon know.
You may need to complete a blood test prior to surgery.
It may be required that you see your primary care doctor to ensure you are healthy enough for surgery.
The surgeon will give you specific preoperative instructions which are very important. Instructions include when to stop eating and drinking liquids because anything in the stomach can be vomited when anesthesia is induced.
When you arrive at the hospital or surgery center, the anesthesiologist and/or nursing staff may review your patient history with you. You will be taken into the operating room to receive the anesthetic (intravenous fluids are typically given during and after surgery).
When the surgery is complete, you will be taken into the recovery area so the staff can observe and care for you until you are discharged. Recovery will vary per patient.
Your ENT specialist will provide specific details for postoperative care and answer your questions.
After surgery, postoperative problems can occur, including:
bleeding from the nose or mouth (occasionally)
If you experience bleeding, notify your surgeon immediately. During your postoperative period, drink liquids as frequently as possible to avoid dehydration. If you have any questions regarding your postoperative care, call your doctor’s office.
What Should You Do Now?
If you are experiencing any symptoms or issues related to tonsillitis, call our ENT doctors at Northeast Atlanta ENT (locations in Lawrenceville, and Suwanee/Johns Creek, GA). We look forward to giving you the treatments you need to feel better soon.