Enlarged Adenoids

Your adenoids are in the back of your nose. They are made up of lymphoid tissue and are part of your immune system. Your immune system helps to prevent and fight infection in your body. Enlarged adenoids can cause snoring, bad breath, and chronic runny nose. More rare, yet serious, complications of enlarged adenoids are pulmonary hypertension, sleep apnea, and right-sided heart failure. Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the vessels that lead to the lungs. Right-sided heart failure is the failure of the side of the heart which pumps blood to the lungs.


Risk factors for enlarged adenoids include sinusitis, chronic nasal obstruction, chronic mouth breathing, poor dental maturation, and increased cavities.


  • Dry, cracked lips and mouth.

  • Restlessness while sleeping.

  • Snoring.

  • Bad breath.

  • Frequent ear infections.

  • Persistent runny nose or nasal congestion.

  • Enlarged tonsils.


Your caregiver is often able to diagnose enlarged adenoids by examining your tonsils and your adenoid (done with a special mirror). Occasionally, an X-ray exam of the throat may be done. Sleep studies may be done if you have signs of sleep apnea.


Antibiotics may be used to treat bacterial adenoid and sinus infections and reduce swelling of the adenoids. Removal of the adenoids (adenoidectomy) may be recommended in cases of longstanding or recurring bouts of tonsillitis or enlarged adenoids that are causing airway blockage. Because adenoids normally shrink in adolescence, adults very seldom need adenoidectomy.

Other reasons for adenoidectomy may include:

  • Trouble breathing through the nose.

  • Excessive snoring.

  • Repeated or longstanding ear infections that:

  • Persist despite the use of antibiotics (in cases of bacterial infection).

  • Recur 5 or more times in a year.

  • Recur 3 or more times a year during a 2 year period.

  • Episodes of no breathing while sleeping (sleep apnea).