The Major Lymphatic Organs Help (page 2)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Aug 30, 2011

Tonsils and Tonsillitis


In addition to full-blown lymphatic organs, there are smaller masses of lymphatic tissue scattered here and there around the body. Prominent among these are the tonsils ( TAHN -sils). The tonsils are literally “little almonds” ( tonsils ) – oval, somewhat almond-shaped clusters of lymphatic tissue – lying in the back of the throat (Figure 17.4).

Immune and Lymphatic Systems: “The Best Survival Offense Is A Good Defense!” The Tonsils: “Little Almonds” In the Back of Our Throat

Fig. 17.4 The tonsils: “Little almonds” tucked away in our throats. (A) Frontal view. (B) Side view.

In humans, there are five tonsils. The pharyngeal (fah- RIN -jee-al) tonsil is the single uppermost mass, located in the portion of the pharynx ( FAIR -inks) or “throat” just behind the nose. The pharyngeal tonsil is also called the adenoids ( AD -uh- noyds ), because it is rather big and “gland” (aden) “like” (-oid).

The two palatine ( PAL -ah- tyn ) tonsils, as their name indicates, are a pair of tonsils lying on either side of the throat, just below the palate ( PAL -aht) or “roof of the mouth.” Finally, there is a pair of lingual ( LING -gwal) tonsils, attached way back at the base of the “tongue” (lingu).


Since they are composed of lymphatic tissue, these five tonsils play minor roles in body defense. They contain lymphocytes and macrophages that phagocytose foreign invaders entering the nose, mouth, or throat. These invaders naturally include various airborne bacteria and viruses.

Sometimes, however, the lymphatic tissue of the tonsils becomes overwhelmed by a huge number of bacteria or viruses. In such cases, tonsillitis ( tahn -sihl- EYE -tis) may result. Tonsillitis is “an inflammation and swelling of” (-itis) the tonsils. This inflammation may be accompanied by a dangerously high fever. The operation of tonsillectomy ( tahn -sihl- EK -toh-mee) or “removal of” (-ectomy) the tonsils is then frequently performed.

Study suggestion: Using your growing knowledge, write a single term that literally means, “inflammation of the adenoids.” Why do you think that a person afflicted with this condition might have trouble breathing?

Practice problems for these concepts can be found at:   Immune and Lymphatic Systems Test

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