Adenoids are just among the hundreds of lymph nodes that help the body combat infection and disease. Their role in keeping the body healthy is certainly crucial. However, they can cause problems when attacked by the very germs they are meant to protect the body from. Explore the causes of swelling in adenoids and the available treatment options.
What are Adenoids?
Adenoids are lymphatic tissue found at the back of your nasal cavity. Also called pharyngeal tonsils, they are made up of many different cell types that help fight off infection and keep allergens out. Adenoids have a good blood supply, they have very few pain fibres, little fat in them, and have lots of lymph nodes in them.
Adenoids are present at birth and remain throughout your life. Infants have two sets of lymph nodes. One set is in the neck (the anterior cervical nodes), while the other set is in the groin (the posterior iliac nodes). The ones in the neck are very small, but they are important for fighting germs. These nodes drain the nose, mouth, and throat (the respiratory tract). The nodes in the groin are part of the lymphatic system that regulate fluids in your child's body.
Adenoids start to shrink after the age of 7 in most people. They affect how you breathe in several ways, as they have functions that help clean your nasal cavity by trapping bacteria, dust, dirt particles and allergens.
A doctor diagnoses adenoid problems when they see symptoms such as ear pain or breathlessness. It is important to note that doctors may use different terms for the exact same thing when diagnosing someone, such as enlarged lymph nodes, adenoids and tonsils.
What is Adenoiditis?
Adenoiditis occurs when the adenoids become inflamed. This happens when you have a cold or an infection that causes your body to fight off the potential threat. The condition starts with the swelling of the adenoids, which causes airway obstruction and breathing difficulties.
There are several causes for this inflammation, but in most cases it comes down to having respiratory issues such as colds or infections during childhood. Adenoiditis can also be caused by prolonged exposure to dry air. It may even be caused by one's diet- if they eat spicy foods that irritate the nose then there is a chance that this could cause their adenoids to swell up too.
Diseases such as measles, mumps or rubella may cause the tonsils to enlarge. If your body is constantly exposed to these viruses then there is a chance that they will stay in your system for longer than usual. As the virus isn't removed it can begin attacking healthy cells within the throat- this could lead to an overactive lymphatic system, which results in enlarged adenoids.
What are the Common Symptoms of Adenoiditis
When not addressed immediately with the appropriate medical treatment or natural therapies, enlarged adenoids can develop into adenoiditis and cause a slew of problems such as:
- Hearing loss due to fluid build up in the ears or blockage of sound waves (sensorineural)
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Difficulty with breathing, especially when walking up a flight of stairs
- Strep throat
- Respiratory infections
- Postnasal drip
- Persistent glue ear, which may lead to middle ear infections
- Chronic sinus infections
- Speech and language problems
- Dental problems (which causes the child to get teeth filled at an early age)
Common symptoms of adenoiditis include the following:
- Ear pain
- Trouble swallowing
- Mouth breathing
- Fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit
- Bad breath
- Sleep disturbance resulting in daytime sleepiness
- Nasal obstruction
- Stuffy nose
- Sore throat
If you have recurring sinus or ear infections, this usually leads to adenoiditis. The condition can be acute or chronic.
Causes of Enlarged Adenoids
Frequent colds, allergies, respiratory infections like URI (upper respiratory infection), or having the flu, oral allergy syndrome (OAS) or sinusitis are among the most common causes of enlarged adenoids. They can cause your adenoids to grow in size, which leads to numerous symptoms. Try avoiding known triggers to avoid inflammation in the nose and throat tissues.
Who is at Risk for Adenoiditis?
Even though adenoids are beneficial when they're working properly, when swollen or infected they cause problems with breathing functions, which can cause discomfort. Any child can develop enlarged adenoids, but they're most common in children younger than 8 years old. There are many risk factors for adenoiditis, which include:
- Hay fever or recurring colds
- Weakened immune function
- Asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases
- Mothers exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy
Treatment Options for Adenoiditis
If you're suffering from persistent ear pain or breathing problems, then it is likely due to adenoid problems. It's important to note that many assume that their ear aches are caused by things like impacted wax when in fact the problem could be enlarged adenoids.
When caught early enough, adenoid issues can be resolved with home treatment, which consists of gargling salt water and drinking plenty of fluids in order to help reduce swelling in your throat.
Treatment options for adenoiditis depend on the patient's symptoms and age. Physicians may prescribe pain medications or an antibiotic treatment if your child has a fever with their adenoids or presents certain signs of illness like vomiting, night sweats and diarrhoea, along with swollen lymph nodes at the back of the throat. Adenoid removal surgery is usually not given as treatment because it could worsen medical problems unless it's life-threatening.
Since adenoiditis is most common in children younger than 8 years old (that's when their immune system is developing), antibiotics don't usually work very well. With children who are older than 8, the treatment may be more successful because their immune system hasn't yet formed a resistance to antibiotic treatment.
In some rare cases where bacteria have spread from the adenoids into surrounding tissue, tonsillectomy might be necessary because this allows your doctor to access all of the affected areas so they can ensure that it has been completely removed.
How to Diagnose Adenoiditis
For diagnosing adenoids or enlarged adenoids you can consult your family doctor, pediatrician, otolaryngologist (ENT doctor), or an allergist or immunologist. Your child's healthcare provider will perform a physical exam on them and ask about their medical history.
The physical exam includes inspection of the nose and throat. The doctor will also listen for the sound of gurgling in your child's nose or swollen tonsils when they breathe in or out. In some cases, a nasal endoscopy can be performed where a small camera is put into your child's nose to look at their adenoids.
If you suspect adenoid issues with your child, make an appointment with their doctor as soon as possible so they can check things out. You don't want it to progress any further which is why getting early treatment is vital.