Sinus & Allergy

Can Tonsils Cause Sinus Infections?

written by Becki Andrus

Are you suffering from chronic sinus issues, and can’t seem to find any relief from the never-ending symptoms? You might have short periods when the symptoms aren’t quite as intense before the infection flares up again.

Since the symptoms are affecting your nasal passages and sinuses, then you are likely focused on those specific treatments.

But there might be an overlooked factor contributing to your sinus issues: problems with the tonsils and adenoids.

What are the Tonsils and Adenoids?

The tonsils and adenoids are both play a role in upper respiratory health:

  • Tonsils: Located in the back of the throat, and consist of soft, lymph-like tissue.
  • Adenoids: Located behind the nose, and consist of soft tissue.

These parts of the body might seem small and insignificant, but they play an important role in fighting infection. For example, the tonsils produce antibodies that protect against the bacteria that enter through the nose and mouth.

If the tonsils and/or adenoids are inflamed, then it can have a domino effect and cause other symptoms – which might also affect your sinuses. Also, the risk of sinus infection might be affected due to the decreased immune function when the tonsils aren’t performing well.

How the Tonsils Affect Sinus Drainage

The main connection between tonsillitis and sinus infections lies in the way the nasal drainage works. If the tonsils and adenoids are enlarged, it can obstruct nasal and sinus drainage. As a result, poor drainage in the sinuses creates a perfect environment where bacteria can breed… which leads to the development of a sinus infection.

This cause-and-effect can happen over and over again: the tonsils or adenoids swell up and block drainage, causing a sinus infection. The infection is treated, but the problem is often recurring as long as there continue to be problems with nasal and sinus drainage.

Swollen tonsils aren’t a life-threatening condition. But it is smart to seek medical attention due to the ongoing discomfort and pain. When the tonsils are infected, breathing can be difficult and it could have an impact on the supply of oxygen to the lungs.

Should Your Tonsils Be Removed?

Sometimes it is necessary to remove the tonsils or adenoids to correct the nasal drainage issues.  If you have chronic sinus infections and other upper respiratory problems, then it is recommended that you talk to an ENT for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Chronic tonsillitis is often treated through surgery, with approximately 600,000 people who have their tonsils removed annually. This treatment is necessary at times, especially for people who are having chronic ENT symptoms that don’t clear up with minimally-invasive treatments.

Tonsils and adenoids are commonly removed in children, but this surgery can also be done for adults with recurring infections. Adenoids can be removed in children without removing the tonsils as well.

Even though the tonsils and adenoids play a role in immunity, it is thought that this function is most important in the first years of life. Researchers have found that removing the tonsils doesn’t affect future immune function.

Other Causes of Sinus Infections

Having a sinus infection doesn’t necessarily mean that your tonsils are causing the issues. A variety of other factors can contribute to the development of an infection:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Viral infection
  • Fungal infection
  • Allergies
  • Nasal polyps
  • Tooth infections

Often, sinus issues are secondary infections after a person has a head cold or allergies. The other health issues increase mucus production and cause inflammation in the nasal passages. As the flow of mucus slows down and the bacteria gets trapped, the risk of sinus infection increases.

Acute sinusitis means that the symptoms are short-term, usually caused by a cold. Chronic sinus infections might be linked with tonsil issues, with symptoms that last more than 12 weeks or multiple sinus infections per year.

Is it Time to Talk to an ENT?

While a general practitioner can offer recommendations about sinus treatments, it is best to visit with a specialist if you want an accurate diagnosis. An ENT has unique knowledge and experience working with the tonsils, sinuses, nasal passages, and ears. This skill set can be paired with specialized diagnostics and testing to determine an accurate diagnosis.

For example, the most common recommendation for a sinus infection treatment is to use an antibiotic that will eliminate the bacteria. While this treatment is an immediate solution for a short-term problem, it doesn’t take into account how other parts of the upper respiratory system could be contributing to recurring problems.

An ENT can take a closer look to see if your tonsils are contributing to the sinus issues. Then, a personalized treatment plan is designed to provide optimal long-term results.

Schedule an Appointment with Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat

Our team at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat offers a variety of services for both minor health concerns and chronic problems. If you are suffering from chronic sinus issues, then it might be time to schedule an appointment with an ENT.

Patients living in Dallas or Collin County can access top-notch ENT care from our staff at Collin County ENT. We offer convenient offices in Plano and Frisco, TX.

Use our online form for a convenient way to request an appointment with a local ENT expert. Or, you are welcome to call the office to book an appointment: (972) 596-4005. We’re here to answer your questions and help you find the best treatment plan.

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