Diseases & Conditions

Adenoidal Hypertrophy


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Adenoidal hypertrophy refers to the increased size of the adenoids. These are the two infection-fighting organs at the back of the nose and above the tonsils.

What is going on in the body?

The adenoids, along with the tonsils, help prevent agents such as bacteria and viruses from entering the body. The adenoids are made up of a group of blood cells that create antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that neutralize foreign substances in the body. When infection or inflammation occurs, the adenoids can enlarge. Since they are seated at the back of the nasal cavity, the swollen adenoids can block airflow through the nose.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The exact cause of enlarged adenoids is not always clear. Most studies point to chronic infection of the upper respiratory tract. Allergies may also cause the adenoids to enlarge. Adenoid enlargement is more common in children than adults.


Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

When the adenoids enlarge, the following can occur:

  • chronic ear infections, known as chronic otitis media
  • chronic or repeated tonsillitis, or inflammation of the tonsils
  • chronic sinusitis
  • difficulty breathing through the nose
  • excessive snoring
  • obstructive sleep apnea, which causes episodes of not breathing during sleep

  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    Diagnosis of adenoidal hypertrophy begins with a history and physical exam. In young children, the easiest way to find an enlarged adenoid is with an X-ray. In older children, the healthcare provider can use a small mirror to look behind the palate. Another procedure is to use fiberoptic instruments, which allow the provider to see the back part of the nasal cavity.


    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    Effective treatment of allergies may prevent some cases of adenoidal hypertrophy. Many times, the condition cannot be prevented.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    Long-term problems include ear disease, such as chronic otitis media, and breathing through the mouth.

    What are the risks to others?

    Adenoidal hypertrophy is not contagious, and poses no risk to others.


    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    In most cases, antibiotics and oral corticosteroids are given and are usually successful. For long-term problems, nasal steroid sprays can be used. Surgical removal of the adenoids is sometimes needed for those who do not respond to medicine.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Antibiotics may cause stomach upset, rash, or allergic reaction. Oral corticosteroids may increase the risk of infections. Surgery can cause bleeding, infection, or allergic reaction to anesthesia.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    Antibiotics and steroids usually help the adenoids return to a smaller size. However, if the adenoids enlarge again, surgery may be recommended.

    How is the condition monitored?

    Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.


    Attribution

    Author:Mark Loury, MD
    Date Written:
    Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
    Edit Date:09/30/01
    Reviewer:William M. Boggs, MD
    Date Reviewed:09/05/01