Tonsils and Adenoid Problems


Tonsils and adenoids are glands found in the throat which are the body’s first line of defense against foreign substances as part of the immune system, though their role is limited. Tonsils are found at the back of the throat as two round lumps and are visible inside the mouth. Adenoids are found higher up the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth and are not visible.

Though a part of the body’s immune system, tonsils and adenoids may get infected due to recurrent nose and throat infections, leading to tonsil and adenoid problems. In some cases, tonsils and adenoids may also become enlarged, which may cause airway obstruction, making it difficult for you to breathe or swallow. This also interferes with your or your child’s sleep when the associated muscles are more relaxed. Eating problems, irritable behaviour and poor teeth alignment are also some problems associate with disorders of the adenoids and tonsils in young children. Eating problems and disrupted sleep can also affect growth of your child.

Chronic tonsillitis is another problem associated with tonsils. When the tonsils and adenoids become infected, abscesses are formed around the tonsils filled with small pockets producing foul-smelling white deposits. The result is swollen and sore adenoids and tonsils. In rare cases, one may also suffer from cancer of the tonsils.

Tonsil and adenoid problems are more common among children, though adults also get affected by these disorders. ​

A disorder of the tonsils or adenoids usually manifests as pain in the throat, most obvious upon swallowing. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Breathing through the mouth while sleeping in case of enlarged tonsils or adenoids which block the airways.

  • Sleeping restlessly because your child’s breathing may be difficult.

  • Blocked and runny nose.

  • <Snoring> at night.

  • Redness and swelling of the tonsils at the back of the throat.

  • <Sore throat>.

  • Bad breath.

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

  • Fever.

  • Pain when swallowing.

  • White or yellow specks on the tonsils.

  • Change in voice.

  • Chills.

If you or your child has recurrent symptoms described above, a visit to your ENT (Eye-Nose-Throat) specialist is necessary. Symptoms which must not be ignored and should be evaluated by a doctor include recurrent sore throats, bad breath, fever, chills, nasal congestion, recurrent ear infections, mouth breathing, snoring, and sleep disturbances.

Discuss these symptoms in detail with our team of internationally trained otolaryngologists (ENT specialists) working with the <Eye and ENT Service Line> of The Aga Khan University Hospital. You can be assured of receiving multidisciplinary healthcare under one roof and quality services from our dedicated and committed staff.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Your doctor will take a history of your or your child’s ear, nose and throat problems. A further physical examination of the throat and nose will be carried out with the help of special lighted instruments. The doctor will also examine the head and neck for signs of pain or lumps in the neck. Depending on the condition of your throat, the doctor may request a throat culture to help diagnose certain bacterial infections.

Besides these, X-rays may also be requested, to assess the size and shape of the adenoids. In some cases, blood tests may also be necessary for an accurate diagnosis. If you or your child also suffers from <sleep apnea> due to tonsils and adenoid problems – a condition in which breathing is disturbed while sleeping – your child’s sleep will also be monitored with a sleep test, called <polysomnography>, in which certain measurements, including oxygen levels in the blood, are taken.

​The treatment for your tonsils and adenoid disorder will depend on what is causing these. If allergic disorders lead to nasal congestion and throat infections, which in turn lead to problems with the tonsils and adenoids, then antihistamine medications will be prescribed and you’ll be advised to protect yourself from common allergens, such as dust mites. 

In case a bacterial infection is the cause of an infection in the tonsils and adenoids, then your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. 

When these methods do not prove to be successful, the doctor may recommend surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids. This may be necessary especially in cases of recurrent problems with tonsils and adenoids. Do discuss the risks, possible complications and benefits of surgery with your doctor prior to the surgery. 

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage



​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.