The tonsils can be described as accumulations of lymphatic tissue found in the oral cavity of the human body. The utility of these is to eliminate and filter all bacteria that can cause damage or infections in the body. That is why keeping the tonsils in good condition is one of the most important tasks of the human being.

What is the function of the tonsils?

Although the work of the tonsils cannot be seen externally, they are of great importance for the body, since some beneficial aspects for the general health of the human being are derived from their proper functioning.

They prevent the contraction of infections

Its unique composition of lymphoid tissue is responsible for keeping virus invasions in the body under control, detecting foreign microorganisms that enter the system and generating antibodies capable of resisting bacteria. The existence of these glands favors the functioning of the immune system, due to the load of B and T lymphocytes they possess, which have different and effective defense mechanisms.

On the one hand, B lymphocytes are responsible for the production of antibodies against pathogens; while those of type T directly attack the foreign particles enveloping them.

Types of tonsils

The human body has 6 types of tonsils, which are located in different areas and have characteristic functions. The three least mentioned types belong to the ear (tubal tonsil) and the central nervous system (cerebral and cerebellar tonsils), while the three best known are found within the oral cavity:


They are located in the tonsillar cell (at the back of the mouth, on both sides of the oropharynx). They are two accumulations of lymphoid tissue, and together with the pharyngeal and lingual, it constitutes Waldeyer’s ring. This type is generally referred to when talking about tonsils.

These glands go through a process called physiological involution, which implies a reduction in their size after 10 years of age.


They are located near the inner opening of the nostrils, right at the connection of the nose with the mouth. They are better known as adenoids, and are made up of a mass of lymphoid tissue.
Adenoids develop after a person is eight months old, when the human body has gone through the stage of immunophysiological depression.


They are of great importance in the body’s immune system, and they are found one on each side of the base of the tongue. They are made up of lymphatic tissue that contains B and T lymphocytes.

Pathologies associated with the tonsils

Depending on the type of amygdala, various pathologies may occur that in some way disrupt the health of the individual. The most common of them do not represent a greater risk to the body and are easily solvable.

  • Tonsillitis: It is the inflammation of the palatine tonsils, usually due to a bacterial infection. This condition can be treated with antibiotics, but in case the patient does not improve or the situation occurs on a recurring basis, he must undergo a tonsillectomy.
  • Adenoiditis: This is pharyngeal tonsil swelling, often this happens at the same time as tonsillitis. Adenoids can also be removed, this process is called adenoidectomy.

Still, there are more severe conditions that can occur, such as adenoid hypertrophy, sleep apnea, pulmonary hypertension, heart failure, and cancer. The latter can only develop as squamous cell carcinoma of the lingual tonsils, and is rare.

Tonsillectomy: Treatment for Tonsillitis

It is a surgical intervention performed under general anesthesia, which consists of the removal of the tonsils. The way to practice it is through the mouth, therefore, it does not leave scars (since it does not imply making incisions in the skin). Currently there are various methods to complete this surgery, such as laser or radiofrequency treatments, however, the conventional method is so simple to perform and has so few cons that most surgeons continue to use it.

This operation can be carried out at the discretion of the patient (or the patient’s parents, if diseased tonsils occur frequently), which is why it usually precedes a prior planning agreed between the doctor and the patient. In addition, this procedure usually includes the removal of the adenoids, since these glands usually become diseased at the same time.

In children

It is quite common that in the infant stage, people have ear and throat infections, since the body produces a great development of tonsil tissue between 2 and 7 years of age. If this happens too frequently, the size of the tonsils and adenoids can increase considerably, making essential tasks like breathing and swallowing difficult. This clinical picture usually generates pain and discomfort in children, so it is recommended to resort to intervention.

In this case, the patient’s parents should follow the ENT doctor’s instructions to properly prepare the child before the operation. The doctor will determine strict hours for the minor’s last meals and drinks, and when all the deadlines have been met, he will carry out the procedure.

The normal time to perform a tonsillectomy (along with an adenoidectomy if necessary) in children ranges from 45 to 60 minutes. Generally, this surgery is not prone to exposing the patient to complications, and is linked to a rapid recovery, so the infant can be taken home in the next 6 or 8 hours; In a few cases, the patient will need to be admitted to the medical facility for 1 day, this happens when the postoperative evolution of the patient is limited.

After a week (maximum 10 days), the child will be ready to return to school activities normally. However, you should avoid going out of town or practicing strenuous sports, until at least 2 weeks after surgery.

In adults

It is uncommon to perform this surgery in people over 18 years of age, to the point that less than 10% of interventions of this type are applied to adults. This is because the lymphatic tissue is more developed and less prone to infection.

Considering this, when an adult presents a clinical picture of tonsillitis, it is usually fought with antibiotics and analgesics, however, in some cases the infection goes to a chronic state that requires a tonsillectomy to be eradicated from the root.

This infectious process manifests itself differently in an adult organism, since the symptoms intensify considerably; For example, it can raise the temperature to the point of causing seizures or the development of peritonsillar abscesses (accumulation of pus in the airways that can expand to the neck and chest), which compromises the general condition of the person and conditions the performance of your daily tasks.

According to statistics, men between the ages of 30 and 50 are the ones most at risk of experiencing this situation; and once intervened, the patient must comply with a rigorous rest to obtain a successful recovery. The person will be ready to return to their working hours after a minimum of 10 days after the operation.

Things to consider about tonsillectomy

It is important to inform your doctor about everything related to this intervention, especially in the following aspects:

Pre and postoperative

The patient must undergo a series of laboratory tests before undergoing surgery, so that the doctor can know the general state of his health. In addition, you must stop eating food approximately 8 hours before being operated on.

After leaving the operating room, specialists will assess your ability to recover from the effects of anesthesia and will administer pain relievers to relieve pain. Once at home, the rest that the patient must keep does not require being in bed all the time, however, it is recommended not to go outside too soon, to avoid contact with infected people.


Due to the location of the surgery, feeding is extremely important in the postoperative period. In the first hours after the intervention, the patient can only ingest liquids in small swallows to evaluate the tolerance level. After several hours, or the next day (it depends on the time of the surgery), the intake of soft and cold food will be allowed; usually it is recommended to eat baby food, ice cream, yogurt and jellies.

After several days (approximately 3) the patient will be able to include warm soft foods in their diet, and after 2 weeks they will be able to return to their normal diet, avoiding foods that may cause discomfort or scratches in the throat (such as cookies or hard breads) .

Conclusion: What is the importance of the tonsils?

Although all parts of the human body have a degree of importance for the proper functioning of the body, a person’s life will not be affected in any way after tonsil removal. This is because the body is not deprived of the functionality of these glands, since the lymphatic tissue contained in the pharyngeal mucosa is capable of protecting the body from infectious invasions, in the same way as the palatine tonsils.

Samantha Robson
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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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