Adenoids: what are they and how should they be treated?

Written by: Professor Stuart Winter
Published: | Updated: 13/04/2023
Edited by: Conor Lynch

Adenoids, which are found at the back of the nose, can cause issues such as nasal blockage as well as various medical complications related to sleep. In our latest article, experienced ENT surgeon, Professor Stuart Winter, is on hand to offer us his expert knowledge with regards to what adenoids are exactly, and tells us when the time is right for them to be removed.


Fluid build-up in the ear is an indication that surgical intervention is needed


What are adenoids and what causes them?

Adenoids are normal parts of the lymphatic system and make up part of the lymphoid tissue at the back of the nose. Lymphoid tissue is also in your tonsils and there is a ring of it at the back of the mouth. For the majority of people, the adenoids get smaller as you get older. While historically they were removed routinely, the operation is now performed when the adenoids start causing problems.


Why should they be removed?

The adenoids can block the eustachian tube, which is the tube that allows air to enter your middle ear. If this tube gets blocked, fluid can then build up in the middle ear (glue ear). If this begins to cause problems, this can be an indication that it is the right time to remove the adenoids. The adenoids can sometimes block the nose, leading to nasal obstruction or can also contribute to snoring and/or sleep apnoea. Very occasionally, cancers can arise either in the lymphoid tissue or at the site of the adenoids.


What can be expected form an adenoidectomy?

The operation is performed through the use of a general anaesthetic. Patients may experience some pain after an adenoidectomy, but this should settle in a few days. There is a small risk of bleeding hereafter that would require a return to theatre, but this is much less likely than having your tonsils removed. There is also small risk of nasal escape but this usually also settles after a few days.   


Are results from the procedure permanent or can adenoids grow back?

In general, the operation is permanent. However, it is extremely difficult to remove all of the adenoidal tissue. As a result, in some cases, the remaining tissue can enlarge again in the future.


Professor Stuart Winter is a vastly experienced ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon who specializes in salivary gland surgery. If you would like to seek more information regarding adenoids, you may wish to consult with an esteemed ENT surgeon such as Professor Winter. Check out his Top Doctors profile here


By Professor Stuart Winter
Otolaryngology / ENT

Professor Stuart Winter is an experienced consultant ear, nose & throat (ENT) surgeon with a specialist interest in tumours of the head and neck. Based across the major private hospitals in Oxford, Mr Winter runs a full ENT practice for both adults and children. He leads a specialist swallowing clinic at the Churchill Hospital. He holds, and has held a number of positions nationally, including with NICE, ENT-UK, and is a member of the national Clinical Reference Group (CRG) for complex Head and Neck Cancer.

Originally qualifying from the University of Bristol, Mr Winter completed his surgical training in the south west of England, where he developed an early interest in head and neck cancer. In order to further develop advanced techniques for head and neck cancer and sinus surgery, he spent a year working at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in South Australia. During this time he received a number of awards, including the Lionel College Memorial Fellowship and the Ethicon Travelling Fellowship.

As Consultant Ear, Nose & Throat Surgeon at Oxford University Hospitals, Mr Winter leads an active research program into head and neck cancer, and to date has over 70 publications in peer-reviewed journals. He is regularly invited to speak at national and international conferences and he teaches on a number of local and national courses.

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