What are the Adenoids?
The adenoids "are a single clump of tissue in the back of the nose (nasopharynx), on the back wall of the throat (pharynx) about one inch above the uvula (the little teardrop shaped piece of tissue that hangs down the middle of the soft palate)" (www.pedisurg.com).
The adenoids (and tonsils) are made up of lymphoid tissues, which is in turn made up of lymphocytes, which help the body create antibodies. This kind of tissue is found throughout the gastrointestinal tract and on the base of the tongue. The adenoids trap bacteria and viruses in babies and young children. After the age of five, the adenoids start to shrink (regress) and by the thirteenth birthday are usually gone completely. Unfortunately for some, the swollen adenoids have already done irreparable harm by the time they start regressing.
Problems with the Adenoids
When the adenoids trap germs and bacteria and attempts to fight off the infection, the tissue will swell. Usually the tonsils will swell too. Swollen adenoids can make it difficult for children to breathe through their nose and so they will breathe through their mouth. Chronic mouth breathing during these early years when the facial bones are developing into their adult formation results in a "high arched palate, the pinching in of the nose, and a shortened upper lip, with a staring expression of the eyes. The face becomes slightly elongated and the upper teeth may be prominent. These changes are called adenoid facies" (www.ghorayeb.com) and can result in breathing problems such as sleep apnea later on in life because the palate and other structures have formed abnormally.
Mouth breathing is a classic sign of swollen adenoids, and if it persists, a doctor may recommend the adenoids (and usually the tonsils as well) be removed.
The most common reason for removing adenoids is that they become so big that they block the back of the nose. This causes snoring, mouth breathing, and even sleep apnea. The degree of enlargement is related to chronic fluid build up or infection in the ears.