Found on both sides of your throat, tonsils are lumps of tissue responsible for trapping bacteria and viruses that may invade the body through the nose, mouth, and throat. White blood cells found in the tonsils and antibodies produced by the tonsils then work to destroy germs to prevent you from getting sick. Sometimes the tonsils are overworked and become enlarged or infected and may need to be removed. The majority of tonsils are taken out during childhood.
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Have someone examine your throat with a flashlight. Enlarged or swollen tonsils are a common sign suggesting that you may need your tonsils removed. You can tell if the tonsils are swollen if they appear red or have a white or yellow covering. If your tonsils are swollen and infected, you have tonsillitis.
Talk with your doctor if you have several bouts of tonsillitis. The removal of tonsils, called a tonsillectomy, is often recommended if you have at least seven episodes of tonsillitis in a year, or have at least five occurrences over a 24-month span. If tonsils become so large that they affect breathing, or an abscess or tumour is detected, a tonsillectomy may be needed. In some cases, enlarged tonsils can make it hard for you to chew or swallow food or can cause you to snore or lead to sleep disorders. In these cases, a tonsillectomy can be suggested.
Get a second opinion and be sure to meet with an ear, nose, and throat doctor. The removal of tonsils is a quality-of-life issue and there are not steadfast rules for when a tonsillectomy should be performed. In the end, you have the final say if the procedure is necessary after gathering all the information from your primary care doctor and after meeting with an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
Tips and warnings
- If you do need a tonsillectomy, do not worry about future infections. Your body has more than enough lymph nodes to make up for the removal of your tonsils.
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