The adenoids (technically, "the adenoid") are tissues which are basically the tonsils you cannot see. They lie just above and behind the soft palate (the part of the palate at the back of the mouth from which hangs the uvula). These tissues function as part of the immune system's barrier to infection at the point of easiest entry to the body - the mouth and nose. The adenoids become swollen for just the same reasons as the tonsils - infections, both viral and bacterial, as well as allergic stimuli. If the adenoids are quite large, they can cause significant respiratory obstruction, with resultant chronic mouth breathing. This mouth breathing can cause permanent changes in the facial shape - "adenoidal facies" with elongation of the face and an open-mouthed, slack-jaw appearance. Nighttime respiratory obstruction, with snoring and even sleep apnea can cause significant load upon the right side of the heart. Other problems caused by chronic adenoidal hypertrophy include blockage of the eustachian tubes and chronic ear disease and hearing loss. For these reasons, the adenoids are sometimes removed surgically.

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