What are Tonsils?

Tonsils are a pair of pink round fleshy structures shaped like a pea, sitting on either side of our throats. They are known as palatine tonsils. These are not the only tonsils present in human body. There are 5 other tonsils located inside and around the throat. One pair is located at the junction where ear and throat are connected, one single tonsil is located in the throat near the tongue base and one or multiple small tonsils are located in the posterior part of tongue. Together, these tonsils form what is known as ‘Waldeyer’s tonsillar ring’.

They cannot be seen externally, and are visualized with the help of procedures which allow internal examination of throat. Tonsils are collection of lymphoid tissue, which is a group of cells acting as protectors of our body from infectious or harmful influences.

Why are tonsils important?

Tonsils are located in and around the throat cavity. Throat is connected both to the mouth and nose. We breathe and eat via nose and mouth respectively. This makes tonsils the first line of defense against many unwanted factors like infectious microorganisms, noxious fumes, harmful food substances etc. It is the function of tonsils to fight off such harmful influences from affecting any system in the body.

Usually when the tonsils fight off any such infection or toxin, they tend to get swollen and red. This is due to excessive inflammation of the lymphoid tissue which is overworking to keep the body safe. Red and swollen tonsils are a common symptoms of throat infection, infection of initial portion of food pipe, nasal infection, infections affecting the mouth etc. This symptoms helps doctors to diagnose various health conditions which could be affecting the patient and treat them aptly.

The single tonsil which is located at the tongue base get inflamed quite often during childhood. When the tonsil is swollen, the condition is known as adenoids. This is one of the commonest complaints observed in children from 2-7 years of age.


Why is Tonsil Removal Surgery needed?


Usually when tonsil removal surgery is discussed, it indicates surgery of the pair of tonsils visible on external examination (palatine tonsils), unless specified otherwise. Surgery is also often employed to treat adenoids in children.

A very important question bothering many people is, “Why are tonsils surgically removed if they are so important?”

Though it is true, that tonsils are very important in being a barrier against harmful influences, sometimes the protective effect can cause discomfort to patients. This necessitates removal of tonsils. Some of the common indications where doctors suggest tonsil removal surgery (Tonsilectomy) are described below:


  • Recurrent throat infection: When a patient keeps on getting affected with throat disorders repeatedly, the tonsils tend to get inflamed again and again. This could lead to severe throat pain, difficulty in swallowing, difficulty in breathing quite often. It is one of the indications of recurrent throat infection.


  • Quinsy: This is a health conditions in which the infection affecting tonsils is so severe, that an abscess forms over the tonsil which oozes pus. It is quite a painful condition for the throat and may require surgical intervention.


  • Complications of tonsil complaints: Normal swelling of tonsil during any throat complaints is expected. But sometimes the swelling and other complaints may be out of proportion to the illness. They may cause more discomfort to the patient in than the throat complaint itself. If the patient is in too much pain, tonsil removal surgery is the best solution.


  • Bleeding from tonsils: A severe infection or traumatic impact could lead to bleeding from the tonsils. This is a condition which indicates removal of tonsils as soon as it is medically safe.


  • Kissing tonsils: This is a condition in which tonsils are so inflamed and enlarged that they touch each other. This condition makes it nearly impossible to breathe and swallow. Doctors usually waste no time in removing tonsils if this condition persists.


  • When other treatment fails: When all other modes of treatment have been tried on the patient, but they fail to provide relief to the patient, tonsillectomy is opted.


  • Cancerous condition: Cancer affecting the tonsils is an extremely rare possibility. It could occur primarily within the tonsils or due to spread of cancer from other organs. Surgical removal is the only treatment which is effective to eliminate this condition.


Tonsil removal surgery requires the patient to follow certain diet and health restrictions after surgery. It is always advisable to follow the surgeon’s instructions completely to get good post-surgical results.

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