Adenoids are often talked about but most people do not know much about them. They are often mentioned in the same breath as tonsils - many people know they have had their "tonsils and adenoids removed" and apart from knowing they had surgery on the inside of their throat, they're not quite sure what else went on. Also, children who speak with a nasal voice are often told it is due to their "adenoids" without anyone telling them exactly what this is.
The adenoids are part of the immune system that protect us. They are made up of lymphatic tissue, which is the tissue that makes antibodies and lymphocytes - which are cells that fight infection.
The tonsils have the same function. The tonsils are found in the back of the throat and the adenoids at the front of the throat, at the back of the nose. The tonsils and adenoids form a ring of lymphatic tissue around the upper throat, meaning that everything that is eaten, drunk or breathed in through mouth and throat passes by lymphatic tissue and can be sampled by the immune system.
As with all lymphatic tissue, the adenoids can get too big. If the adenoids do get too big, they can cause a tenderness at the back of the throat and back of the nose and can make breathing through the nose more difficult. This can lead to snoring at night and poor sleep. If very large, it can also make the voice sound different.
Adenoids can be removed under a general anaesthetic by a specialist ENT surgeon.