This Is What Really Happens When You Get A Tonsillectomy

While tonsils act as "a first line of defense against bacteria and viruses that enter your mouth," their function declines after puberty, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic. This is why tonsillitis, or infection of the tonsils, is most commonly associated with children.

However, that does not mean that adults are immune to tonsillitis or other reasons that might require a tonsillectomy. Your tonsils — two small pads of tissue, one on each side of your throat — can potentially obstruct breathing, leading to sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. Tonsils may also become enlarged, susceptible to bleeding, be the source of severe bad breath (halitosis), or afflicted by diseases, such as cancer. In these cases, a tonsillectomy would likely be recommended if the infections are recurring, or antibiotics or other approaches fail to address the issue.

While tonsillectomies are considered common and have been around for many years, Healthline notes that the procedure still carries some potential risks to keep in mind. An adverse reaction to anesthesia, swelling, infection, and bleeding are all potential side effects.

Recovering from a tonsillectomy

Tonsillectomies are typically performed within 30 minutes. Surgeons use general anesthesia so the patient does not experience pain during the procedure. There are various kinds of techniques the surgeon can use when performing a tonsillectomy, which will vary depending on the specifics of the patient's situation. One surgical option is the electrocautery technique, which uses heat to remove the tonsils. The surgeon may otherwise choose one of several kinds of scalpel techniques (via the Cleveland Clinic).

How long it takes to heal from a tonsillectomy varies from person to person. However, there are some general things to expect. For instance, be prepared to experience some pain after surgery. The pain can get worse within a few days and last a week or so, but your doctor can prescribe pain medication to ease the discomfort. Also, it's possible to experience temporary discoloration in the area where the tonsils were removed, and there is also some risk of bleeding.

To ensure you make a full, speedy recovery, drink a lot of fluids and stick to soft or cool foods, such as ice cream, smoothies, yogurt, broth, mashed potatoes, and scrambled eggs. If you experience extreme pain, high fever, or bleeding in your mouth during your recovery, contact your doctor.