The tonsils and adenoids are composed of tissue that is similar to the lymph nodes, strategically located near the entrance to the breathing passages to catch incoming infections. Since they “sample” bacteria and viruses as part of the immune system’s first response, they can become infected themselves. This is generally what happens when we experience a sore throat.

The tonsils can also harbor “stones” of bacteria or decaying food matter without causing any type of infection or discomfort. While this is not a serious medical issue, it may be responsible for halitosis, or bad breath, and is something we can help treat. Some of our patients who suffer from sleep apnea or frequently snore may benefit from an airway evaluation. It is not uncommon for the tonsils to be the cause of these disorders. Chronic infection of the tonsils or adenoids can also affect nearby structures such as the eustachian tubes, which is the passage between the back of the nose and the inside of the ear. This can lead to frequent or chronic ear infections, or hearing loss.

Bacterial infections of the tonsils, especially “strep throat”, are initially treated with antibiotics. Removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids may be recommended for some children or adults who suffer recurring infections despite antibiotic therapy, or who have difficulty breathing or sleeping due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids. In any case, surgery is always a last resort, and Dr. Kay is very experienced in surgery of both pediatric and adult patients.