Can inflammation of adenoids make one susceptible to an ear infection? Scroll down to find the link between inflamed adenoids and ear infections along with treatment options for swollen adenoids.
The immune system of the human body comprises various specialized structures that strengthen the body’s defenses against pathogens. The lymphatic system aids the immune system in countering the disease causing agents or anything that the immune system perceives as a threat. Palatine tonsils, lingual tonsils and nasopharyngeal tonsils are specialized masses of lymphoid tissues that make up the Waldeyer’s ring located in the throat. These play an important role in stimulating the immune response in an event of exposure to pathogens or any harmful environmental pollutants.
Adenoids, also known as nasopharyngeal tonsils, not only trap the pathogens, but they also produce immune cells that destroy these disease causing microbes. However, adenoids may sometimes get inflamed while fighting off the pathogens. Ear infections, breathing difficulty, bad breath, difficulty in swallowing and a host of other symptoms could occur in response to enlargement of adenoids. Can one become susceptible to ear infections due to swollen adenoids? Let’s find out if there is a connection between these two medical conditions.
Connection Between Ear Infections and Swollen Adenoids
While tonsils are fleshy lumps of tissue that can be seen on either side of the oropharynx, adenoids (nasopharyngeal tonsils) cannot be seen as these are located higher up, towards the back of the nasal cavity, in the upper section of the pharynx. The high incidence of middle ear infections in a person suffering from infected adenoids is mainly attributed to the blockage of the Eustachian tube.
It is the proximity of the Eustachian tube to the adenoids, that explains the link between the swollen adenoids and ear infections. Eustachian tube is a long slender tube that connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx. This tube opens up whenever the pressure on both sides of the tympanic membrane (eardrum), is unequal.
The opening of the tube, helps to equalize the pressure in the middle ear with the atmospheric pressure. It also helps in draining off the mucus from the middle ear. The enlargement of the adenoids can cause blockage of the Eustachian tube, which in turn, would lead to the accumulation of infected fluid in the middle ear. Swollen adenoids can also cause blockage of nose, and prevent the drainage of nasal secretions. If one suffers from inflammation of adenoids every now and then, there is a great likelihood of one suffering from recurring ear infections and upper respiratory infections as well.
Treatment Options for Enlarged Adenoids
When it comes to the treatment of swollen adenoids and the resultant infections, doctors usually consider drug therapy at first. In order to prescribe the drugs, they need to ascertain the nature of the infection that is responsible for the inflammation and the resultant enlargement of the adenoids. If the infection is caused by bacteria, doctors may prescribe antibiotics in order to destroy bacteria and prevent them from multiplying further.
If the patient seems to be suffering from recurrent upper respiratory infections or middle ear infections due to adenoiditis, doctors may recommend adenoid removal. The removal of adenoids is medically referred to as adenoidectomy. Since adenoids are believed to be play an important role in fighting off infections during childhood, the decision regarding the removal of enlarged adenoids in children is taken only if the other treatments don’t work.
However, adenoidectomy is certainly the best treatment option for inflamed adenoids, especially in case of children who suffer from recurring middle ear infections due to adenoiditis. In severe cases, doctors may suggest the removal of adenoids and tonsils. Adenoidectomy may also be suggested for adults who often suffer from enlarged adenoids and other complications that result from adenoiditis. Adenoid surgery is performed after administering anesthesia to the patient.
Once the patient is under the influence of anesthesia, a surgical instrument called a curette is inserted into the mouth for adenoid removal. The lymphoid tissue may even be cut off by an instrument called microdebrider. The lymphoid tissues can even be cauterized in order to prevent blood loss, that may occur if removal of adenoids involves curettage or debridement. As is the case with most surgeries, those who have had their adenoids removed, may be susceptible to infection, which is why doctors often prescribe antibiotics.
While adenoids and tonsils are believed to play an important role in defending the body against pathogens, tonsils as well as adenoids usually shrink with time. Thus, removal of adenoids in adults is not really considered to weaken the immune response considerably. However, for children suffering from swollen adenoids and recurring ear infections, the surgical removal is only resorted to, in cases where the conservative treatment has not worked.