The adenoids are a collection of lymphatic tissues which are located at the rear of the nasal passages, in the nasopharynx. Another name for these is ‘lymph glands’.

They are very similar in appearance and location to the tonsils but are located in a higher position in the throat.

The adenoids increase in size after birth but reach their full size in the early years of childhood. Once this stage has passed they start to shrink and have practically disappeared by adolescence.

The adenoids form part of the immune system. They defend the body against infection by attacking bacteria or viruses which enter the body through inhalation. They use antibodies and cells as a means of protection against throat infections.

However, their role in preventing throat infections is not as important as we think. The body uses other means to defend itself against disease and infection which relegates the adenoids to a lesser role.

What can go wrong with the adenoids?

The adenoids usually decrease in size after childhood and as a result of that, do not cause any problems. However, in some cases they can become swollen or enlarged which may require treatment.

Swollen adenoids often develop as a result of a virus or bacteria, i.e. a throat infection, but they can also be caused by an allergy or in some cases, they occur for no apparent reason.

Enlarged adenoids are discussed in more detail in our throat related problems section.

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