Tonsillar hypertrophy, or enlarged tonsils, can be caused by an ongoing
(chronic) condition or be a temporary effect of an infection.
More to Know
Tonsils are small glands on either side of the back part of the throat. Their main
job is to help stop bacteria from getting farther down the throat.
Enlarged tonsils can be an ongoing (chronic) condition or a temporary effect
of an infection.
Doctors aren't sure what causes chronically enlarged tonsils, but secondhand
tobacco smoke and air pollution can make them larger.
If the tonsils are very large, a person may snore or have trouble swallowing certain
foods. Some people with enlarged tonsils have obstructive sleep
apnea (pauses in breathing during sleep) because the tonsils partially block the
airway. A test done overnight in the hospital — called a sleep study —
can help determine if someone has sleep apnea by looking for these pauses.
Tonsils enlarged from an infection usually return to a normal size when the infection
gets better. Chronically enlarged tonsils may also shrink as kids get older.
Keep in Mind
Enlarged tonsils are common. Treatment depends on the size of the tonsils and whether
they interfere with eating, sleeping, or breathing. Most of the time treatment is
not necessary. But sometimes, the doctor might recommend a medicine to shrink the
tonsils or surgery to remove them (a tonsillectomy).
Occasionally, someone with sleep apnea may need to wear a special mask at night that
helps with breathing.
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