Adenoiditis in Adults

Understanding adenoiditis in adults

Adenoiditis is essentially an inflammation of the adenoids caused by infection. Adenoids are glands in your mouth that are located behind the nose. So, when they get infected, inflamed and enlarged, it's usually because of adenoiditis. This condition occurs when adenoids get overwhelmed with bacteria.

The inflammation leads to difficulty breathing and respiratory infections, which are usually characterized by thick yellow or green nose drainage. If left untreated, this condition can lead to chronic inflammation of the sinuses.

Adenoiditis is more prevalent in children, but the enlarged adenoids tend to clear up themselves as children grow. Adults can get this condition too, though it's somewhat rare. It's not a life-threatening condition, but adults experience the same symptoms as children.

What are the symptoms of adenoiditis?

Inflammation of adenoids usually lead to severe discomfort, and that's the first thing you'll notice when you get adenoiditis. The types of symptoms you will experience will vary depending on the extent of the inflammation and type of infection.

With swollen adenoids, your air passage gets obstructed, making it difficult for you to breathe well. You'll likely experience symptoms such as snoring, a blocked nose, heavy breathing, nasal speech, breathing through the mouth, a dry throat in the morning, and sleep apnea. You can also develop a habit of keeping the mouth open often.

When you get sleep apnea, headaches and fatigue are common symptoms that occur due to inadequate sleep. Bad breath and foul taste are also expected with this condition.

Complications of enlarged adenoids

Adenoids may not be a cause for concern when they're mild. Unfortunately, they can increase in size if let untreated. When they do, patients are likely to experience complications, such as heart problems and high blood pressure. Infection of adenoids can also spread to the ears and cause other infections.

Adenoiditis can also cause another ear infection called glue ear, a build-up of mucus in the middle ear. Other possible complications include vomiting, chest infection, and sinus infection. When it spreads to the membranes of the larynx and vocal chord, you'll experience a cough.


The primary diagnostic procedure for adenoiditis is a rhinoscopy. This test involves the use of a tool known as rhinoscope to examine the nasal passages. In some cases, the doctor will use X-ray to examine the nasopharynx for a more accurate diagnosis that helps to determine the extent of the condition.

How is it treated?

Vasoconstrictive drops are standard treatments if you have severe nasal congestion. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to treat adenoiditis, especially if the condition did not result in other infections, such as sinus and ear problems. Also, if you've got severe heavy breathing problems, antibiotics won't be effective medications to use.

In this case, you'll need to undergo a surgical procedure known as adenoidectomy to remove the inflamed adenoids. During your doctor's visit, you're likely to be examined for tonsillitis since it tends to occur with adenoiditis. You'll also need the tonsillectomy surgery to remove tonsillitis.

When is surgery necessary?

In some situations, your case may not be severe enough to warrant a surgical operation. If medication can work for you, that's great. However, if the enlarged adenoids are bothersome and they are not responding to the prescribed medications, then you can consider surgery.

Your doctor will also recommend surgery if you have recurring and heavy symptoms such as obstructive sleep apnea, recurrent ear infections, and difficulty breathing.

Understanding adenoidectomy

This procedure is usually performed by a practitioner who specializes in nose, ear, and throat surgeries. You will be given general anaesthesia before the procedure, which occurs in a hospital or outpatient center. The doctor removes the infected adenoids through the mouth, so there's no need for any incision apart from cutting the tissues.

You don't need to spend days in the hospital after the procedure, but you can spend a few hours there as your doctor monitors you.

Following the surgery, you may experience fever, pain, sore throat and scabs in the mouth. It's advisable to adhere to your doctor's advice to ensure quick healing. Adenoiditis in adults is not as common as in children, but the effects are the same. Seeking medical attention as soon as you notice new symptoms is essential in averting the progression of the condition.

Last Reviewed:
June 14, 2017
Last Updated:
October 25, 2017
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