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Tonsils

Illustration of the mouth and the location of the tonsils

Tonsils are clusters of lymphatic tissue just under the mucous membranes that line the nose, mouth, and throat (pharynx). There are three groups of tonsils. The pharyngeal tonsils are located near the opening of the nasal cavity into the pharynx. When these tonsils become enlarged they may interfere with breathing and are called adenoids. The palatine tonsils are the ones that are located near the opening of the oral cavity into the pharynx. Lingual tonsils are located on the posterior surface of the tongue, which also places them near the opening of the oral cavity into the pharynx. Lymphocytes and macrophages in the tonsils provide protection against harmful substances and pathogens that may enter the body through the nose or mouth.