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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 13:20 EDT

Tonsil

The tonsil is an organ that functions within the lymphatic system. It is a mass of lymphoid tissue located in the throat as a first line defense against pathogens as they are inhaled or ingested.

Types and Locations

The most commonly spoken of tonsil is the palatine tonsil. These tonsils are located in the back of the throat on each side of the oropharynx.

Adenoids are the second most commonly spoken of and also referred to as pharyngeal tonsils. They are located on the roof of the pharynx or soft palate. There is another set of tonsils, the tubal tonsils, next to those adenoids. Both set of tonsils are comprised of material that filters pathogens from inhaled air.
Lastly, the linguinal tonsils are located behind the tongue. With this set, all sides of the oropharynx are protected. The complete set of tonsils is called Waldeyer’s tonsillar ring.

Common Complication

Tonsils can become inflamed or irritated by pathogens to the point of potential airway obstruction. This inflammation, known as tonsillitis, can make it difficult to swallow, breathe or eat.

Initial treatment may include giving anti-inflammatories and pain management. If the condition becomes chronic or severe, a tonsillectomy (removal of tonsils)  may need to be performed.

Image Caption: Diagram of the palatine tonsils from U.S. National Cancer Institute. Credit: Wikipedia

Tonsil