Can Tonsils Grow Back After Removal?

Tonsillectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures that’s performed today. One question that I’m often asked is, can it grow back? The answer is…it depends. Overall, once you take out all your tonsils, it’s unlikely to come back. However, if you’ve only had most or some of your tonsils removed, as long as there’s inflammation, there’s increased risk that it can slowly grow back. 

Tonsils are made of lymphoid tissue and make up a part of Waldeyer’s ring, with your adenoids at the top in the back of your nose, your two palatine tonsils in your throat, and your single midline lingual tonsils lower down at the base of your tongue.

During early development, your tonsils, like all the other lymph nodes in your body, educates your immune system to tell it what’s part of the body and what’s not. Normally, after childhood, the these tonsillar tissues shrink down to small nubbins.

However, if you have chronic inflammation in your nose or throat, such as from allergies or acid reflux, chronic irritation causes these “glands” in your throat to swell up. One they enlarge, they take up more space in your throat, aggravating various degrees of breathing obstructions.

Adenoids and lingual tonsils are different from palatine tonsils in that the lymphoid tissues are attached directly to the back of the nose or the tongue muscle layer. However, palatine tonsils are surrounded by a thin fibrous capsule that separates the lymphoid tissue from the muscles of the throat.

Traditional tonsillectomy usually involves removing the tonsils along with the fibrous capsule, leaving only the thin membrane covering the muscles. With adenoids, however, it’s usually scraped out, charred or debulked using various devices. It’s literally impossible to remove everything, since you’ll have to remove normal tissues.

Another recent variation of tonsillectomy involves removing only a portion of the tonsils, leaving a thin cuff of tonsil tissues that sit right next to the capsule. Common procedure names you may see include Coblation or sub capsular tonsillectomy. These type of procedures are done more for obstruction and sleep apnea, rather than for infection, where you normally want to take out everything. In theory, having residual tonsil tissues can make you more likely to have tonsillar growth, if you have constant inflammation.

Or if you have small amounts of adenoids remaining, and let’s say you have chronic allergies, then you have a higher chance of your adenoids growing back. I’ve seen this many times in my career. Overall, however, it’s still rare.

Another common condition that’s not often addressed is lingual tonsils. Many people with obstructive sleep apnea will have persistently enlarged lingual tonsils. Chronic stomach juice exposure from apnea is one major reason for these lymphoid tissues to become enlarged. If you have small jaws and a large tongue to begin with, even slightly enlarged lingual tonsils can take up more space behind your tongue, aggravating further collapse and obstruction.

What I often see is that when symptoms of sleep apnea persist or come back after tonsillectomy, it’s usually blamed on your tonsils growing back. Usually when I look, there are no tonsils remaining, but they have large lingual tonsils or significant palatal or tongue collapse. In most cases, the main reason for the multiple levels of narrowing is due to small jaws and dental crowding. Taking out huge tonsils can definitely help in some people, but most people will have persistent sleep apnea, since there will be persistent obstruction due to tongue and/or soft palate collapse.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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109 thoughts on “Can Tonsils Grow Back After Removal?

  1. I had my tonsils out 2 years ago this month. Mostly because of chronic sore throat and tonsil stones. They have grown back but are smaller than they were. I did find a small tonsil stone about a month ago.

    Just FYI. Tonsil regrowth may be rare but it definitely can happen.

  2. Well, i had my tonsils removedwhen i was a little kid. I jus don’t remeber hat age, but anyway, i have like this dry cough, sore, sore throat, &’d i dont know if it’s my tonils or what…it hurt really bad, but it’s probabl not my tonsils. O well
    January 22.2011

  3. Had my tonsils removed in ’77 during the holidays. Spoke thru my nose for 3 months aterwardsl They grew back two years later and like now, are huge and painfull. Should I have them out again?

  4. I had my tonsils taken out when I was about 10 (now 35) and in the last few years have noticed that my tonsils have slightly grown back…I have more on the right then on the left. I never had strep after my tonsils came out, but about 2 years ago, I started getting it….that’s when I noticed the tonsils growing back. I am a nurse and had others look in my throat and it is confirmed that I definitely have tonsils again. Ugghhh…hopefully it doesn’t turn into needing another tonsilectomy.

  5. I had my tonsils out when I was 9 years old. I am now 22, and have one tonsil that has grown back. I had a sore throat last year and saw something in the back of one side it. I knew I had my tonsils removed, so worried, I went to the ENT doctor. He told me that one of my tonsils grew back. Now whenever I have a sore throat, only that side bothers me! (extremely annoying)

  6. i had my tonsils removed in 1986, I was 4 years old… they grew back and are giving me alot of problems. I went to a specialist and they said they will NOT remove them unless i get strep like 5-6 times a year for a few years. 24 years after no problem they decide to grow back.. and get inflamed all the time.. mainly the right side.. what can I do?

    Perhaps a second opinion? Any and all advice is greatly appreciated.

  7. I had my tonsils taken out when I was 4 years old and they grew back in 09′. Now I’m getting constant sore throats, ear pain and hoarsness. My Dr. said to keep a log of my symptoms and if it happens to frequently then I have to have them removed again. He doesn’t want to do it unless he really needs to.

  8. I went to my doctor last week. as I have swollen glands in my throat and have trouble swallowing – she thought I had tonsilitus, but I informed her that I’d had them removed in 1980, so immediately said that it was just a virus and that I should take paracetamol. What’s going on with doctors today, when they don’t even give you a proper examination?

  9. i can truly say that i am 41 and at 19 i had my tonsils removed totally in Boston Children’s Hospital and they are fully back 23yrs later.Shock is not the word I want this doctor to knowif he want to see he may, I have a full set back like they never left but am in so much may i say growth pain of the throat and no ear infection so now u know for sure

  10. Had my tonsils iout in 1976 at Christmas time. A horrible case of mononucleosis in ’72 left them literally hanging by threads. Back in those days the doctors were never eager to take them out, but they could have saved me scores of strep throats and happier high school memories if they had. Now one side looks like it’s half grown back again. Oddly enough, I’ve now had a chronic mild sore throat on that side – with white patches- for two weeks. Z pack did not help. Strep negative. I have to agree with Dawn – what IS the matter with doctors these days?? It seems like they don’t diagnose like they used to. Is it a liability thing now? I hate spending the money when I feel like it’s a trial and error thing. In the “old days” I think doctors were more qualified – maybe because things were so specialized then and they HAD to learn about everything.

  11. i had my tonsils taken out 6 years ago due to the fact i had strep throat every month from september ’04 through march of 05 then in april ’05 i had tonsilitis. and then every month from may ’05 through november ’05 i had strep throat again. so november 22nd ’05 they were taken out. and i went to the doctor yesterday. and my right tonsil has grown back. and it is causing me so much pain i cant even think straight. i think once is enough to go through that surgery to where they wont grow back. and i wish i could sue the surgeon. who didnt do their job right!

  12. I had my tonsils removed when I was 17. At the age of 19, my right side of my throat where my tonsil was grew an abscess that I had to get removed. Now a year later, my left tonsil actually grew back all infected, not as an abscess tho. I’ve had three different doctors confirm it was my tonsil growing back. Now I have surgery for another tonsillectomy tomorrow morning. I’m so not looking forward to it.

  13. i had my tonsils out cents 1983 and my throat still hurts bad and dr. glock took them and now it hurts like it did before and what can you do about it now its to late and sometimes it gets so hurting that i cant eat anything i go bed hungery

  14. i thank they should done it right in the first time and i thank people that had there tonsils out they should get in trouble for not doing that surgary right

  15. i had my tonsils removed when i was 5 and just a year ago and i only just noticed that they hao grown back nerly the same size, but not only my tonslils grew back but also my aeidnoids im taking medication for it but my doctor said i may have to get them takin out again my throat kills all the time

  16. I had my tonsils removed in 1953, I was 6 at the time. Now I am 63, had sore throat for one week,went to the Dr, he told me my left tonsil was infected, I couldn’t believe my what I was hearing.

  17. i had my tonsils out in kindergarten, i was 5 yrs old. i remember my teacher had brought me icecream and popcicles. i thought i was through with the sore throats. now im 27 yrs old, went to the doctors today for a sore throat. i though it was strep or mono. nope its tonsilitis. i have little white splotches on the side of my throat where the tonsils were. i said i had my tonsils out when i was 5, doctor said really?my question is why do a surgery for something that is supposed to be removed from my body if its going to grow back???. i believe only one has grown back so far, but ill tell you what my throat is killing me horribly. feels like its on fire! i better not have to go through it all again :(

  18. All this year I have had sore throats off and on. Less than a month ago I went to my dr. because I had a sore throat for two weeks. He said it may be step and gave me a pres. A few days ago I start to get anouther sore throat. It feels raw and I can barely swallow my own saliva. Along with the aches all over and exhausted. I am thinking strep again. Go to an after hours today. The dr. looks in my mouth and say’s your tonsil are very swollen. I tell him I do not have any tonsils I had them and my adnoids completely removed when I was about 9, after having mono. He took anouther look,gave me a pres. for strep and said that I need to go see my dr. next week because he had never seen anything like what he see in my throat.. I get thinking did they grow back? The last time I remember not being able swallow my onw saliva was way back when I got addmitted for glandular mononeucleosis when I was a kid, resulting in my tonsils needing to be removed. I google it today and now I am thinking I will be telling my dr. I know they grew back. What a shock. A few years ago I had anouther dr. say I had some reddiness around my tonsils. I told him I did not have tonsils then, but he just corected himself say “well I mean where you’s should be” I wounder,were they coming back then.

  19. i had my tonsils out 15 years ago and touch wood they have not grown back my lil boy had his out just over a week ago i really hope his dont grow back he use to get tonsilitus every 2 weeks really badly and dont think he could go through having them out again if they come back his only 7 bless him.

  20. I had my tonsils removed two years ago due to tonsillitis occurring with monotonous regularity. I thought I was done with the sore throats and other symptoms, but yesterday morning I woke up with the familiar rough, sore throat, and a cold sweat. My symptoms just kept getting worse now I have to go to the doctors first thing tomorrow morning. I really hope my tonsils have not grown back. I don’t want to have to go through all that again.

  21. I had my tonsils removed when I was 10-11 years of age. I was always getting sick whether it be tonsilitis, pneumonia, strep throat, or the common cold. They told me, once my tonsils were removed, that they were horribly infected and there was no wonder why I was getting sick. About 6-8 months ago my fiancé started to notice that I kept getting sick and that I seemed to be less energetic than normal. We thought nothing of it until July of this year when we made an trip to the ER because of me being sick. The doctor checked everything and after looking at my throat pointed out that my tonsils have grown back. Hopefully, after I can stay healthy for a decent length of time, I will have them removed once again.

  22. ok, this is cray had my tonsils removed in 1981 because i was staying with strep throat fever and ear infeaction had them removed at presbeterian hospital in nyc ,
    when to my doctor with complaints of a sore throat and thought my glands were swollen he said your tonsils are inflammed and was put on antiboitics and need to see an ent doctor to have them removed again , this is crazy ! iwant my money back for the first surgery my mother wants a refund !

  23. I had my tonsils removed last February and I just started having a sore throat. I rubbed my neck and it feels like if I have tonsils! I opened my mouth and don’t see any tonsils!

  24. I had mine out may 1994 when I was 20. After a 3 hour surgery I had complications from the anasthesia which made my life more miserable. I learned that my tonsils had petried (while attached still) and my dr had a “helluva” removing them cleanly. I spent 4 days in the hospital and life after my release was far more horrifying. I couldn’t eat or drink…. If I smiled or tried hold back a sneeze or cough I would vomit ( which was like breathing fire) it took me 6-8 weeks to recover to a point I could function as a human. I could eat a meal and do my laundry. It was fatiguing. I am now 37 and I STILL have affects of that surgery. When I laugh or cry my throat in that area tightens and hurts like it tenses up… If I speak for very long or I cry while talking (im a girl we do that) it tightens so much I can no longer talk… These are direct affects of MY tonsillectomy. This my life… I would much rather give birth 3 more times with NO DRUGS OR EPIDURAL than have a tonsillectomy.

  25. I had my tonsils and adenoids removed at the age of 5 and again at 8, and I am now 38 and was informed they have grown back for a third time!!!! Unless I continue to get sick with infections I will not be having surgery again!

  26. Grant, and all the others who were kind enough to post on this blog: A tonsillectomy is not an all or nothing procedure. There are many variations, different surgeons, and different degrees of tonsillectomy. If you have any residual tonsil tissues from a previous tonsillectomy, it’s possible to have re-growth, especially if there’s a chronic source of inflammation. The vast majority of people who undergo tonsillectomy do well for years of decades after their procedures, but there are definitely some people like yourselves that have persistent or recurrent tonsil enlargement. As I’ve mentioned before, even if you got the remaining tonsils removed, there’s still a small chance that you’ll still have your throat symptoms. Allergies or reflux are the most common causes of inflammation, which should always be first addressed, before considering any surgical procedure. I explain this in much more detail in all my other articles and in my book.

  27. Ok so about 3 years ago I got my tonsils removed , I just recently discovered that they left a piece on my left side & it , its causing me an earache as well, Could I sue whoever my doctor was for not doing his job right ?

  28. Cendi,

    It’s unlikely your ear pain is caused by residual tonsils. There are a number of other reasons for ear pain that are not related to tonsils. Although many cases of throat and ear symptoms do get better after tonsillectomy, in some cases, they do not. I always warn patients that these symptoms may not get better when counseling for surgery.

  29. I hammy tonsils out when I was 4, I am18 and I went to the doctor today and he recommended that I get mine out. I was like I got them out but he said he would have never thought. Do you think they grew back.

  30. I have the tonsil growing back on the left side verified by doctor. Funny he thought I was crazy till he looked. It gets soar often and when he noticed I said take it out . He said we should wait that this is not a simple operation and is risky. Not sure what that means. I figured he could remove right then or at least as outpatient. How risky is it. Getting to be uncomfortable too often. It will heal back on its own but some times takes too long and is painful.

  31. I just had my surgery 3/28/12. The surgery itself seems simple and I was out of the hospital within an hour of waking up. I thought I was getting better, but tonight(a week later) i am in the most horrible pain yet. How long is this going to take to recover from really??? Does it vary? I would be so angry if I had to do this again. And to those people saying they get tonsillitis and steep often and the dr still doesn’t want to take them out, find a new ent. It sucks being sick all of the time. I was sick for like 3 years before we figured I needed these things out. And I suggested it to my dr.(for those who say no one does actual exams anymore, totally true, and sad). Might as well go to Obama care since 90% of the drs don’t do shit anyway.

  32. hello….i had tonsillectomy three months ago, but one month after that operation,the tonsils stone came back with high pain compared to previous…it is a month now since i did the second operation, the problem i do experience now is difficult swallowing and severe pain, it is a month now but still i have not recovery perfect…..wht is the problem.

  33. Dr. Park, My son is almost nine years old.
    His adenoids have grown back five times and his tonsils have grown back seven times. He has severe sleep apnea.
    He has had surgeries every year of his life.
    I am at a loss as to why his adenoids and tonsils keep coming back.
    Please let me know what you think and what we should do now.
    He is always tired, he has learning issues and a 1:1 for behavior at school.
    He is overweight. When he was a baby until age 3 he was hyperactive and couldn’t sit still.
    Now, he is very slow-going and hates to move around a lot.

    Thank you for your help.

  34. Kara,

    Sorry to hear about your son. Without examining him, I can’t give an accurate diagnosis, but it sounds like you need to get his obstructive sleep apnea treated definitively. Good luck.

  35. Hmmm…. It depends is the wrong answer, yes is the right answer. The question can they grow back is yes or no. As you go on to describe the circumstances of them growing back that would make the answer a yes.

  36. Your,

    Notice that the title is a rhetorical question. As I pointed out in the article, the more completely you remove the tonsils, the less likely they will grow back. Your response is like a lawyer asking a witness if something is possible, despite a very, very, very small chance of it being possible. The witness is pigeonholed into giving either a yes or no answer.

  37. I am 22 and got my tonsils removed about 2 or 3 months ago. It was a very rough recovery, in and out of A&E. I have noticed a massive improvement, i.e.have an appetite and dont feel like a walking zombie, and dont have tonsillitis any more. The only thing is i have now had a cold and a very sore/ dry throat ,and my throat feels burny, every morning, ive had this for about 5 weeks on going , and also a very blokd nose and fever ,etc. Is this part of recovery stil? Or shuld my sore throat be gone ?

  38. Ally,

    Sorry to hear about your ongoing health issues. Unfortunately, I can’t say for sure without examining you. This is something you need to bring up with your surgeon. Good luck.

  39. Dr. Park,

    I am writing for a 16 year old family member who has just found out her tonsils have regrown for the 8th time. We have been told that the tonsil tissue extends into the larynx. The doctors she has seen are concerned that removing more tissue will leave her without a voice. Do you have any information or resources to offer on this issue?

  40. I am 34 and had my tonsils removed at 16 from constant tonsillitis. I woke up this morning with big white dots all over the back of my throat and it looks like my tonsils have grown back as they’re covered in spots too. I can’t talk or swallow and have had a monstrous headache and fever all day. Is there a way to tell if it’s caused from bacteria or a virus? Should I hope for the best or head to the doctor immediately? Thanks

  41. Yes, it seems they’ve grown back. I’ve been put on a course of Penicillin. The doc however did mention that if the antibiotics didn’t work then it might be Glandular Fever. It feels and looks like the tonsillitis I had as a child. Wish me luck.

  42. I recently had outpatient surgery on my veins. The anesthesiologist remarked that it was difficult to get the air tube down my throat due to an enlarged left tonsil. I was surprised since I had my tonsils removed when I was 15 months old. I am now 63. I will make an appointment with an ent to find out what’s up, but am discouraged by these tales of the difficulties people encounter.