July 20, 2011 -- Justin Werner added a new honor to his resume: Guinness World Record holder for biggest tonsils.
In fact, he really did add it to his list of credentials.
"I put it on my resume before I applied to my last job," said Werner, 21, of Topeka, Kan. "What can I say -- it's a good conversation starter. I got the job."
Sore throats, snoring, breathing and sleep problems plagued Werner since he was a kid, but he often shrugged them off. It was only after a dental hygenist commented on his large tonsils that he began to consider a tonsillectomy.
"It got to the point where every time I swallowed I was uncomfortable," the record holder said.
When doctors finally removed them, his larger tonsil clocked in at 2.1 inches long and 1.1 inches wide, thoroughly beating the competition.
Werner, before and after he had his record-breaking tonsils removed.
"I ended up crushing" the record, said Werner, who beat out the previous record holder, Justin Dodge of Milwaukee, Wis., by about 0.8 inches. "I wanted to keep them, but I guess rules these days don't allow it."
Still, he has proof of his tonsils' exceptional size. Last week, Werner received official papers from Guinness World Records that granted him the prestigious title as having the biggest tonsils ever recorded in the world.
"I don't know how I feel about it," he said. "Most world records are amazing feats and mine just happened because I had big tonsils."
But more important than the title, Werner said talking, breathing, running and sleeping feels better than ever.
"It's fairly common that we take out very enlarged tonsils, but Justin's were the biggest that I had ever removed," said Dr. Tyler Grindal, an otolaryngology who performed Werner's surgery. "Prior to surgery, we knew they were very enlarged, but it wasn't until he was under anesthesia that I could really appreciate just how big they were."
Tonsils are composed of tissue and they're similar to lymph nodes or glands found in the neck. When enlarged, they can cause breathing problems, sleep apnea and pain.
Dr. Ramzi Younis, a pediatric otolaryngologist in Miami, said that some doctors used to believe that tonsils acted as the first line of defense from possible infections going through the mouth, bu there is no scientific evidence that shows removing the tonsils puts a person at greater risk of infections.
While the procedure was performed more in past decades than it is today, Younis also noted that it is still one of the most common procedures in American children.
"About half a million kids get the procedure every year," said Younis. "Risks of the procedure have been minimized, but there have been advances with antibiotics and medications so we see fewer kids with chronic tonsillitis."
The condition is considered chronic if a person suffers three episodes of tonsillitis every year for three years, or seven episodes in one year.
"That's an indication to remove those tonsils," said said Younis. "Tonsils are removed because the problem is more harmful than helpful. Once they're remove, a person's life improves and they have a better quality of life."
As for Werner, he said quality-of-life improved right away.
"The change was immediate," he said. "I can breathe and sleep so much better."