If you've been experiencing frequent throat infections, difficulty swallowing, or other discomfort related to your tonsils, you might want to consider removing your tonsils.
For the record, the tonsils are an essential part of our immune system. That means they are quite necessary for our health. But, sometimes, your tonsils end up causing more harm than good. They lead to frequent illness, ear infections, strep throat, and snoring.
So, is it possible to remove them? How do you know your tonsils have to be removed? Tonsillectomy or tonsil surgery is the solution to this.
Many people, including you, often ignore symptoms like a sore throat, thinking it's just a common cold. But did you know that a persistent sore throat could be something more serious? It's important not to underestimate persistent discomfort and consider seeking medical advice to ensure your health is in check.
Keep reading to know the 10 signs your tonsils need to be removed immediately. Also, explore tonsillectomy and its possible complications.
What is Tonsillitis?
Tonsils are basically lumps of tissues on both sides of the throat. If you open your mouth, they are quite easy to see.
Since they function similarly to lymph nodes and act as a first line of defense, they are more vulnerable to inflammation and infection. That means they become inflamed and infected themselves. This condition is known as tonsillitis.
Common symptoms of tonsillitis are fever, sore throat, cough, headache, ear pain, and swollen tonsils. These symptoms are relatively mild and can be managed at home with OTC medications and plenty of rest.
In simple words, tonsils play a great role as a part of our immune system by trapping the bacteria and viruses that enter through our mouth or nose. The most common bacteria is Streptococcal bacteria. Tonsils produce antibodies that kill these bacteria and prevent us from getting sick.
However, there are instances when these tonsils become problematic. They can become enlarged, overworked, or infected in some people, especially children.
In such cases, immediate medical help becomes necessary. That means your tonsils have to be removed. What’s more, as tonsillitis progresses, it can make swallowing painful and hard.
Research shows that removing tonsils can avoid various reoccurring medical concerns that are interfering with your quality of life.
Now, let's explore the top indications that make tonsillectomy mandatory.
10 Signs Your Tonsils Need To Be Removed Immediately
When a tonsillitis infection becomes severe, symptoms will typically also be painful. Doctors will advise you to remove your tonsils due to a number of conditions affecting them. Let's get into the common signs your tonsils need to be removed immediately:
1. Frequent throat infections
This is the most common sign of severe tonsillitis. If you have recurring throat infections that do not respond to medication treatment, your doctor may suggest tonsil surgery.
Here are the criteria after which you must consider removing your tonsils:
i) You've had 7 or more cases of bacterial tonsillitis in a year.
ii) You've had 5 or more cases of bacterial tonsillitis per year over the course of 2 consecutive years.
iii) You've had 3 or more cases per year of documented bacterial tonsillitis over the course of 3 consecutive years.
2. Tonsil infections/other infections –
Chronic tonsillitis occurs when your tonsils become infected more than five times per year. When they are large and inflammatory, you will experience extreme pain and suffering.
What’s more, tonsillitis in and of itself is not contagious, but the illness causing the inflamed/infectious tonsil is. Consequently, untreated tonsil infections can often spread to neighboring tissues, causing health problems such as ear infections, sinusitis, and adenoiditis.
Moreover, these related infections cannot be adequately treated unless tonsillitis has been totally removed. As a result, doctors will advise removing them.
3. Sleep-disordered breathing/Sleep Apnea –
Sleep-disordered breathing or Sleep apnea is a common condition in which your breathing stops and restarts multiple times while you sleep at night. It's a condition that causes abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep.
Biologically, it’s the recurrent partial or complete upper airway obstruction during sleep, disrupting your normal ventilation and sleep patterns.
So, if you have insomnia or sleeping issues because of tonsillitis, it's a sign you need to remove them immediately.
4. Enlarged tonsils –
Enlarged tonsils may cause other severe complications in life, such as trouble swallowing and difficulty sleeping. This, in turn, might prevent you from breathing while sleeping at night.
In such cases, removing your tonsils becomes necessary. This surgery removes the obstruction while also treating the problem.
Sleep apnea in kids is also primarily connected to enlarged tonsils, which is why doctors often recommend tonsil removal.
5. Tonsil tumor –
Generally, tonsil growths tend to be benign and the result of an infection. HPV (Human papillomavirus) may be the underlying cause of tonsil cancer or throat cancer, which was previously unknown.
If you have severe snoring and difficulties breathing, your healthcare provider can rule it out and recommend tonsil surgery to avoid the possibility of recurrence. If they have any concerns, they may suggest you take them out.
Tonsil surgery is usually carried out through the mouth (transoral surgery). Surgeons insert specialized tools via the mouth to access the tumor and remove it with lasers or cutting tools.
6. Tonsil stones –
Chronic tonsil stones indicate an ongoing challenge with the health of your tonsils. These small, calcified formations develop in your tonsil crypt. They trap the debris and nurture bacterial growth. You may notice persistent bad breath, discomfort, or even difficulty swallowing.
If these stones are a recurrent issue, removal of tonsils may be recommended. Yes, tonsil stones are not generally harmful; they can be removed at home in most cases. However, surgery might be needed in rare instances when they keep recurring or get bigger in size.
7. Difficulty eating or swallowing –
Enlarged tonsils can make it difficult and painful for you to eat, breathe, or sleep, which has a direct influence on your daily life.
Further, if you notice persistent difficulty in swallowing, accompanied by discomfort or pain, it could be a sign that your tonsils are causing more harm than good.
As a result, if you believe that tonsillitis is interfering with your day-to-day activities, you can consider a tonsillectomy for immediate relief, even in acute cases.
8. Abscess in tonsils –
An abscess is nothing but a collection of pus. Severe tonsillitis can cause an abscess commonly known as a peritonsillar abscess.
It develops between one of your tonsils and the wall of your throat. It's a common complication of tonsillitis, but dental infection may also cause it.
Symptoms of tonsil abscess are similar to tonsillitis, but you may experience extreme throat pain that's set to one side. These types of abscesses can be drained or cleared out, but your doctor may advise removing your tonsils if you have chronic throat infections.
9. Bad breath –
Halitosis or bad breath is usually caused by food debris accumulation in your tonsil crevices in the enlarged tonsil tissues.
Tonsils are prone to trapping germs and debris, resulting in the formation of tonsil stones. These calcified forms can give off a foul odor, which contributes to persistent bad breath.
Poor breath can be easily managed in the short term through proper gargling and other oral hygienic methods. However, if it persists, it shows that your tonsils are problematic, and it’s a sign your tonsils need to be removed immediately.
10. Sore throat –
A severe sore throat is one of the most common signs that your tonsils are causing problems. It's a clear indication that your tonsils may not be effectively performing their immune function.
Hence, If you're consistently fighting a scratchy or itchy throat despite taking OTC medications, it could be a sign that your tonsils are infected and require immediate removal.
Understanding Tonsillitis in Children
As said before, children are more susceptible to tonsillitis than adults. It's common in children under 18. This is because children generally have weaker immune systems, which makes them highly prone to bacterial and viral infections.
In other words, their tonsils usually shrink, and infections become less common. That’s why it's recommended to take them out in early childhood.
The thing is, young children may not be able to explain these symptoms as they experience them. So, how do you notice them? Here are some of the signs tonsils need to be removed in your child:
- Your child is refusing to eat due to pain in the throat.
- Your child is crying often.
- It looks like your child has trouble breathing.
- Antibiotics aren't working well.
- Your child is producing more saliva than usual.
- It's been more than 3 days, and their symptoms have not improved.
If you notice these signs in your child, take them to the pediatrician right away. They will ask you to schedule an appointment for tonsillectomy.
What is Tonsillectomy?
Tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure for removing the tonsils. This surgery is performed as a simple outpatient procedure under general anesthesia.
That means you'll be asleep without any pain throughout the entire procedure. Tonsillectomy is super quick and painless, only taking about 20-40 minutes to remove your tonsils.
According to the National Library of Medicine, tonsillectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures, with more than 500,000 performed on children under 15 annually in the US alone. However, it remained controversial due to immunity concerns and antibiotic advancement.
Tonsil surgery is also recommended for people with other less common tonsil problems, like abbesses, sore throat, or tumors.
Speaking of the recovery period typically lasts for one to two weeks. You must follow the post-operative care instructions your healthcare provider advises to ensure a smooth recovery.
What are the complications of tonsillectomy?
Like any other surgery, tonsillectomy comes with many complications, but most of them are temporary. In some cases, additional surgeries may be required. Some of the potential complications include:
- Pain and bleeding
- Anesthesia complications
- Altered taste
- Pain in the ear
- Sore throat
- Tongue swelling
- Voice changes
- Weight loss
- Velopharyngeal insufficiency.
Discuss them with your doctor before going forward with your tonsil surgery to avoid such complications.
Final Thoughts –
As we saw, the decision to remove tonsils should not be taken lightly. We hope you understand the top signs your tonsils need to be removed immediately. Early detection and intervention can prevent complications and improve your overall health.
If you suspect you have a tonsil or throat infection, contact an ENT professional immediately for appropriate treatment. Don’t delay the treatment, as it might lead to unexpected issues in the future.
Make sure to talk with your doctor about all the risks and benefits of tonsillectomy. Most patients have reported great improvement in their quality of life after this procedure. Always prioritize your health and seek medical help when in doubt.
1. When is it urgent to remove tonsils?
Ans: If you experience recurrent tonsillitis, have chronic sleep apnea, or snoring that disturbs your sleep, it's time for you to remove your tonsils. If you or your child get 7 throat infections a year, doctors may recommend tonsil removal surgery.
2. When is tonsillitis an emergency?
Ans: If your symptoms last longer than four days, and you're having trouble breathing, swallowing, or speaking, your tonsils need emergency care.
3. How bad is tonsil surgery for adults?
Ans: During tonsil surgery, adults have reported experiencing more pain than children.
In the first few weeks after surgery, they may experience unpleasant pain and difficulty swallowing. Some also reported nausea, vomiting, and loss of taste. However, these problems may go away within a week.
4. What are the symptoms of tonsils needing to be removed?
Ans: If you're experiencing any of the below symptoms, your tonsils need to be removed urgently.
- Difficulty or painful swallowing.
- Visibly red and swollen tonsils.
- Enlarged and tender glands in the neck.
- Bad breath
5. Why do doctors advise not to remove tonsils?
Ans: Some doctors advise not to remove tonsils due to immunity concerns and the potential for antibiotic advancement.
6. How long is tonsil surgery?
Ans: The tonsil surgery can last from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. However, recovery from anesthesia may take a longer time.