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For the structure in the cerebellum, see cerebellar tonsil.
Tonsils diagram.jpg

The tonsils are areas of lymphoid tissue on either side of the throat. An infection of the tonsils is called tonsillitis. Most commonly, the term "tonsils" refers to the palatine tonsils that can be seen in the back of the throat.

Like other organs of the lymphatic system, the tonsils act as part of the immune system to help protect against infection. In particular, they are believed to be involved in helping fight off pharyngeal and upper respiratory tract infections.

Contents

Types

Tonsils in humans include, from superior (top) to inferior (bottom):

Type Epithelium Capsule Crypts Location
Adenoids (also termed "pharyngeal tonsils") Ciliated pseudostratified columnar (respiratory epithelium) Incompletely encapsulated No Roof of pharynx
Tubal tonsils Roof of pharynx
Palatine tonsils Non-keratinized stratified squamous Incompletely encapsulated Yes Sides of oropharynx between palatoglossal
and palatopharyngeal arches
Lingual tonsils Non-keratinized stratified squamous Incompletely encapsulated Yes Behind terminal sulcus (tongue)

Together this set of lymphatic tissue is known as Waldeyer's tonsillar ring.

Growth

Tonsils tend to reach their largest size near puberty, and they gradually undergo atrophy thereafter. However, they are largest relative to the diameter of the throat in young children.

Tonsils can become enlarged or inflamed (tonsillitis) and may be surgically removed in tonsillectomy. This may be indicated if they obstruct the airway or interfere with swallowing. In older patients, asymmetric tonsils (also known as asymmetric tonsil hypertrophy) may be an indicator of virally infected tonsils, or tumors such as lymphoma or squamous cell carcinoma.

Some doctors who are not ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists are conservative on recommending the removal of tonsils, because the tissue cannot be put back, and some claim that removal decreases the power of the immune system. ENT specialists generally recommend removal if there are frequent recurrent tonsillitis, adenotonsillar hyperplasia causing symptomatic partial upper airway obstruction or asymmetry.

Tonsil enlargement can affect speech making it hypernasal and giving it the sound of velopharyngeal incompetence.[1]

Tonsilloliths

A tonsillolith is material that accumulates on the tonsil. They can range up to the size of a peppercorn and are white/cream color. The main substance is mostly collagen, but they have a strong unpleasant odor because of hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan and other substances.

References

  1. ^ Mora R, Jankowska B, Mora F, Crippa B, Dellepiane M, Salami A. (2009). Effects of tonsillectomy on speech and voice. J Voice. 23(5):614-8. doi:10.1016/j.jvoice.2008.01.008 PMID 18468843
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Simple English

The tonsils are areas of lymphoid tissue on either side of the throat. An infection of the tonsils is called tonsillitis or Tonsilitis. Most commonly, the term "tonsils" refers to the palatine tonsils that can be seen in the back of the throat.

Like other organs of the lymphatic system, the tonsils act as part of the immune system to help protect against infection. In particular, they are believed to be involved in helping fight off pharyngeal and upper respiratory tract infections.


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