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The tonsils are small, glandular structures that are located at the back of your mouth and nose. These structures are part of the immune system, trapping any bacteria, viruses, or debris that you might breathe in. Tonsils may vary in size based on your individual characteristics. Usually, every person has three sets of tonsils on each side of the throat.
The palatine tonsils are located at the rear of the throat. These structures are made up of tissue covered with pink mucosa, containing small pits called crypts. Swelling and turning red in response to infection, the tonsils are involved in the lymphatic system. They help the body combat any foreign material entering the mouth that could be damaging. This function is accomplished through proteins called antibodies, which are produced by immune cells inside the tonsils. Antibodies are responsible for killing germs and preventing infections in the mouth, throat, and lungs.
Another major pair of tonsils is called the pharyngeal tonsils, which are commonly known as the adenoids. The adenoids are masses of lymphatic tissue that are located on the top portion of the nasal cavity, behind the nose the soft palate. If the adenoids become inflamed as the result of infection, they can swell and obstruct breathing through the nose. This blockage can interfere with sinus drainage and create infections in the sinus and middle ear. The adenoids tend to be largest during childhood, but decrease in size once you reach adulthood.
The final pair of tonsils is the lingual tonsils, which are located at the base of the tongue. Similar to the palatine tonsils, the lingual tonsils are groupings of lymphatic tissue with crypts that lead to lower lymphatic tissue. However, the crypts in the lingual tonsils are drained effective by small mucous glands, making the presence of any infection very rare.
Infection is most common in the palatine tonsils and the adenoids. Usually, infection in these structures is the results of glandular enlargement and poor drainage. The two most frequent problems in the palatine tonsils and the adenoids are recurrent infections in the nose and throat, which leads to difficulty breathing, swallowing, and sleeping. If you are experiencing these symptoms, see your doctor for an examination.
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