About The Throat
We have all suffered the annoyance of having a sore throat at some point in our lives. The throat is an important part of our anatomy and is closely related to other clinically important structures. The throat is a muscular tube which is integral for both the respiratory and the digestive systems.
The throat is also known as the pharynx and can be divided into 3 different regions.
- The first of these is the nasopharynx, which begins at the rear of the nasal cavity. It is exclusively part of the respiratory system and provides a passage for the air breathed through the nose to pass into the respiratory tree.
- The second region of the pharynx is the oropharynx. It extends from the back of the soft palate to the epiglottis, the cartilage which closes to protect the airway from food and drink. The oropharynx allows the passage of air breathed through the nose and the mouth, as well as food and drink we have swallowed.
- The laryngopharynx is the final section of the pharynx and is located near the larynx ie. the voicebox. It extends from the epiglottis to the base of the larynx at the cricoid cartilage, where it continues further inferiorly as the oesophagus. At the rear of the throat are a series of muscles. These are known as the pharyngeal constrictors and act to squeeze the throat and push swallowed food into the oesophagus.
Several structures of clinical significance lie within, or in close proximity to the throat. There are 3 major tonsils located within the pharynx. These are the adenoids, which are located at the back of the nasopharynx, and the lingual and palatine tonsils, which are within the oropharynx. The tonsils are common sites of infection.
The Eustachian tube passes from the middle ear and opens into the nasopharynx. It is usually closed, but opens to equalise the pressure between the middle ear and atmospheric pressure. Clinically, it is an important structure as it allows the spread of infection between the regions. It is particularly problematic for children, because the tube is shorter, narrower and more horizontal, which further increases the susceptibility to infection spread.
The throat and its associated structures are prone to infection. The structures within the throat region are exposed to the air we breathe, which may contain pathogens and other sources of infection. The food and drink ingested may also be a potential source of infection or abrasion to the throat. Although we may not think of the throat as an important structure, it is a component of both our respiratory and digestive systems, with the tonsils of the throat also being a part of the immune system. The throat holds clinical significance as a common site of infection.
If you have questions about the throat contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you see an Ear Nose Throat Specialist.