Tonsils are collections of lymphoid tissue facing into the aerodigestive tract. The set of lymphatic tissue known as Waldeyer’s tonsillar ring includes the adenoid tonsil, two tubal tonsils, two palatine tonsils, and the lingual tonsil. When used unqualified, the term most commonly refers specifically to the palatine tonsils, which are masses of lymphatic material situated at either side of the back of the human throat. The palatine tonsils and the nasopharyngeal tonsil are lymphoepithelial tissues located near the oropharynx and nasopharynx (parts of the throat).
Tonsils in humans include, from anterior (front), superior (top), posterior (back), and inferior (bottom):
|Adenoids (also termed “pharyngeal tonsils”)||Ciliated pseudostratified columnar (respiratory epithelium)||Incompletely encapsulated||No crypts, but small folds||Roof of pharynx|
|Tubal tonsils||Ciliated pseudostratified columnar (respiratory epithelium)||Roof of pharynx|
|Palatine tonsils||Non-keratinized stratified squamous||Incompletely encapsulated||Long, branched||Sides of oropharynxbetween palatoglossal
and palatopharyngeal arches
|Lingual tonsils||Non-keratinized stratified squamous||Incompletely encapsulated||Long, branched||Behind terminal sulcus (tongue)|
Normally, each tonsil measures up to 2.5 cm in length, 2.0 cm in width and 1.2 cm in thickness. Tonsils tend to reach their largest size near puberty, and they gradually undergo atrophy thereafter. However, they are largest relative to the diameter of the throat in young children. Humans have four tonsils: the pharyngeal tonsil, tubal tonsil, palatine tonsil, and the lingual tonsil.
Their Important Role in Immunity
A pair of tonsils after surgical removal.
Tonsils can become enlarged (adenotonsillar hyperplasia) or inflamed (tonsillitis) and may require surgical removal (tonsillectomy). This may be indicated by Conventional medicine if they obstruct the airway or interfere with swallowing, or in patients with frequent recurrent tonsillitis. However, given the recent findings in the mechanisms of pathogenesis for the two subtypes of tonsillar hypertrophy, there may be other more holistic solutions than surgery. In older patients, asymmetric tonsils (also known as asymmetric tonsil hypertrophy) may be an indicator of virally infected tonsils, or tumors such as lymphoma or squamous cell carcinoma.
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