What are the tonsils?
Tonsils are the two protruding tissue masses at the back of your throat. They are the first defense system against bacteria that we ingest or inhale. There are three types of tonsils in the back of the mouth
- Palatine tonsils: It is located at the back of the mouth in the fauces below the soft palate. Mostly, tonsils refer to the palatine tonsils.
- Lingual tonsils: It is located at the base of the tongue.
- Pharyngeal tonsils/adenoid: It is located high up in the throat, just behind the nose.
Tonsillectomy, although a common surgery, has earned a bad reputation for several reasons. A few studies have reported that tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies are associated with higher levels of allergic, respiratory, and infectious diseases later in life. This statement is however disputed by an equal number of studies.
Is it bad to have the tonsils removed?
Tonsillectomy means the removal of the tonsils from the back of your throat. It is still considered one of the most common surgical procedures performed in children. However, it remained controversial because of the following reasons:
- Immunity concern: The tonsils produce a type of lymphocyte (white blood cell) that helps fight against infection and is active in the synthesis of immunoglobulin (a protein that filters out microbes, bacteria, and viruses). Therefore, they play a role in immunity. Although healthy tonsils offer immune protection, diseased tonsils are less effective at serving the same immune functions. Infected tonsils may be unable to respond to other antigens. It cannot appropriately reinforce the special surface immune system of the respiratory tract. Some studies have demonstrated minor alterations of the immunoglobulin level in the blood serum following a tonsillectomy. However, there is no evidence of a significant clinical effect of a tonsillectomy on the immune system. In cases of recurrent tonsillar infections, the benefits of a tonsillectomy clearly outweigh the risks.
- Antibiotic advancement: Streptococci bacteria is one of the main culprits causing your tonsillar problem. It causes a strep throat, and this may cause people to get numerous tonsil infections, even several per year. Before the advent of modern antibiotics, a tonsillectomy was the best available treatment for reducing the risk of this painful throat condition. With the introduction of antibiotics, tonsillitis has now become easier to treat with antibiotics as opposed to surgery. Therefore, surgery is not always advisable. Recurrent group A streptococcal (GAS) pharyngitis gets complicated by one or more of the following
Severe obstruction due to adenoidal hypertrophy is an absolute indication for surgery. An adenotonsillectomy is preferred over an adenoidectomy alone in this setting.
When does your pediatrician recommend a tonsillectomy?
Only after watchful waiting, the pediatrician may recommend a tonsillectomy if your child has
- A recurrent throat infection and sore throat, despite adequate medication with at least
- Seven episodes in the past year
- Five episodes per year in the past two years
- Three episodes per year in the past three years
- Nighttime breathing problems with snoring
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Enlarged tonsils
- Abscess in tonsils
- A tonsil tumor
- Otitis media or recurrent middle ear infections due to colds
What are the complications of a tonsillectomy?
The complications of a tonsillectomy are as follows
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Tonsillitis (Adenoiditis)Tonsillitis is a contagious infection with symptoms of bad breath, snoring, congestion, headache, hoarseness, laryngitis, and coughing up blood. Tonsillitis can be caused acute infection of the tonsils, and several types of bacteria or viruses (for example, strep throat or mononucleosis). There are two types of tonsillitis, acute and chronic.
Acute tonsillitis lasts from one to two weeks while chronic tonsillitis can last from months to years. Treatment of tonsillitis and adenoids include antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, and home remedies to relieve pain and inflammation, for example, salt water gargle, slippery elm throat lozenges, sipping warm beverages and eating frozen foods (ice cream, popsicles), serrapeptase, papain, and andrographism Some people with chronic tonsillitis may need surgery (tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy).
Group B StrepGroup B strep are bacteria called Streptococcus agalactiae that may sometimes cause infections both in a pregnant woman and her baby. Symptoms include fever, seizures, heart rate abnormalities, breathing problems, and fussiness. Intravenous antibiotics are used to treat group B strep infections.
Is Strep Throat Contagious?Strep throat is caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. Incubation period for strep throat is 1-5 days after exposure. If strep throat is treated with antibiotics, it is no longer contagious after 24 hours; if it is not treated with antibiotics, it is contagious for 2-3 weeks. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, tonsillitis, white spots or patches on the tonsils, and nausea and vomiting. Diagnosis of strep throat is performed through a rapid strep test.
Is Tonsillitis Contagious?Tonsillitis is a common infection, especially in kids. Tonsillitis is caused by viruses and bacteria like the flu and herpes simplex virus, and Streptococcus bacteria. These viruses and bacterium are spread person to person. Symptoms of tonsillitis are a yellow or white coating on the tonsils, throat pain, pain when swallowing, and hoarseness.
Rapid Strep Test
A rapid strep test is an easy and accurate test performed to diagnose strep bacteria, causing strep throat. A rapid strep test is performed in the health care practitioner's office. A rapid strep test can assist in ruling out other causes of sore throat, for example, flu, common cold, or mononucleosis. Treatment of strep throat is generally antibiotics.
Sore throat (throat pain) usually is described as pain or discomfort in the throat area. A sore throat may be caused by bacterial infections, viral infections, toxins, irritants, trauma, or injury to the throat area. Common symptoms of a sore throat include a fever, cough, runny nose, hoarseness, earaches, sneezing, and body aches. Home remedies for a sore throat include warm soothing liquids and throat lozenges. OTC remedies for a sore throat include OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Antibiotics may be necessary for some cases of sore throat.
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Strep Throat QuizTake the Strep (Streptococcal) Throat Infection Quiz to learn about causes, symptoms, treatments, prevention methods, diagnosis, and complications of this common infectious disease.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat. Signs and symptoms of strep throat include headache, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, and fever.
Strep throat symptoms in infants and children are different than in adults. Strep throat is contagious and is generally passed from person-to-person. Treatment for strep throat symptoms include home remedies and OTC medication; however, the only cure for strep throat are antibiotics.
Strep Throat: Symptoms and TreatmentsStrep throat symptoms in adult and kids may be accompanied by a fever, rash and may lead to more serious complications. Strep throat tests confirm the infection, which is contagious. Treatment includes antibiotics and home care. Strep throat in kids may produce vomiting and nausea.
Streptococcal InfectionsGroup A streptococcal infections are caused by group A streptococcus, a bacteria that causes a variety of health problems, including strep throat, impetigo, cellulitis, erysipelas, and scarlet fever. There are more than 10 million group A strep infections each year.
Tonsil StonesTonsil stones are small clusters of calcifications that form when food, dead cells, mucus, and bacteria get stuck in the nooks and crannies of the tonsils. Tonsil stones are hard, appear as white or yellowish formations on the tonsils, and usually smell bad due to bacteria. If symptoms occur, they may include persistent bad breath, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, and cough.
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Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy SurgeryTonsillectomy is the surgical removal of both tonsils. A tonsillectomy may be performed in cases of recurrent tonsillitis, or treat sleep apnea and some speech disorders.