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Complications of Very Large Tonsils

author image Lisabetta DiVita
Lisabetta Divita is a physician whose love for writing flourished while she was exposed to all facets of the medical field during her training. Her writings are currently featured in prominent medical magazines and various online publications. She holds a doctorate in medicine, a master's in biomedicine, and a Bachelor of Science in biology from Boston College.
Complications of Very Large Tonsils
A doctor is examining the back of a patient's throat. Photo Credit: robertprzybysz/iStock/Getty Images

Tonsils refer to the paired tissues that are located toward the back of the throat. These tissues contain lymphocytes, cells needed to fight infection. The Merck Manual, a collection of online medical information for the medical professional, says enlarged tonsils typically occur in preschool-age children and teenagers. Sometimes, these tonsils may not cause a problem but in some cases, complications of very large tonsils result.

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Ear Infection

Enlarged tonsils can predispose people to developing an ear infection. Ear infections, also known as otitis media, refer to an infection or inflammation that occurs in the inner ear.

Symptoms of an ear infection include an earache, ear pain, fullness in the ears, hearing loss and vomiting. Other symptoms include diarrhea and feeling generally ill.

MedlinePlus says some risk factors for developing an ear infection include having a recent illness, being in day care, living in a cold climate or not being breastfed.

Treatment for an ear infection involves taking medications such as acetaminophen that can be found at a pharmacy. Also, placing a cold cloth on the affected ear and using over-the-counter ear drops to relieve the pain can also be beneficial in managing an ear infection. Sometimes, antibiotic medications can be given to manage ear infections. Surgery can also be used to place tubes in the ears.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Very large tonsils can also block part of the airway and lead to obstructive sleep apnea. According to the Mayo Clinic, obstructive sleep apnea refers to a condition in which people temporarily stop breathing during sleep.

Specific obstructive sleep apnea symptoms include loud snoring, troubling sleeping and waking up in the middle of the night with bouts of shortness of breath. Other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include daytime sleepiness, a sore throat and a dry mouth.

In obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of the throat actually relax and the large tonsils can obstruct the back of the throat.

The Mayo Clinic says some risk factors for developing obstructive sleep apnea include being overweight, having high blood pressure, having a narrow airway and having chronic nasal congestion. Other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include having a family history, being male and having diabetes.

Treating obstructive sleep apnea involves using a mouthpiece to prevent the throat from closing or using a device over the face and mouth that allows for continuous positive airway pressure. Sometimes surgery is necessary to remove any tissues such as the tonsils or to insert devices that will aid in breathing.

Chronic Sinusitis

Very large tonsils can also increase the risk for developing chronic sinusitis. The Mayo Clinic says chronic sinusitis refers to a condition in which nasal passages become swollen.

Chronic sinusitis symptoms include nasal congestion, trouble breathing and drainage of green or yellow mucus from the throat or nose. Other symptoms of chronic sinusitis include aching in the teeth or upper jaw, and pain or tenderness of the face. A sore throat, fatigue, nausea and bad breath are other signs of chronic sinusitis.

Some risk factors for developing sinusitis include suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease, having nasal polyps (growths) and asthma.

Treating chronic sinusitis involves using medications including decongestants, nasal corticosteroids, saline nasal spray or antibiotic medications such as doxycycline to manage chronic sinusitis. Sometimes, surgery is used to manage chronic sinusitis.

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