Not being able to eat, breathe, or speak means that life as you know comes to a complete halt. Keeping all parts of your throat healthy is an important task to ensure that you can do these things long into the late years of your life. In this article, we will discuss the anatomy and function of the pharynx.
- General Function Of The Pharynx
- Structure Of The Pharynx
- Common Challenges With The Pharynx
- Helpful Ways To Keep The Pharynx Healthy
General Function Of The Pharynx:
The pharynx is a passage at the back of the throat. Its main role is for the passage of food into the rest of the digestive system and for air to get into the lungs.
Structure Of The Pharynx:
The pharynx is approximately 15 cm long and is divided into 3 main parts:
- Nasopharynx - This is the uppermost part of the pharynx that lies above the soft palate.
- Oropharynx - This part lies at the back of the throat. It is composed of the underside of the soft palate, the back of the tongue, palatoglossal fold, and the palatopharngeal fold.
- Laryngopharynx - This part of the pharynx covers the area from the oesophagus to the cricoid cartilage to the upper border of the epiglottic cartilage. The inlet of the passage to the lungs to let air in is in the front section of this area.
The individual parts that are within the pharynx include:
- Pharyngeal Tonsil
- Pharyngeal Opening of Eustachian Tube
- Palatine Tonsils
- Prominence Over Cricoid Cartilage
- Parotid Gland
- Nasal Septum
- Root of the Tongue
- Opening of the Larynx
- Piriform Fossae
There are six pairs of muscles of the pharynx that include:
- Stylopharyngeus Muscle - Elevates the larynx when swallowing
- Stylohyoid Muscle - Elevates and retracts the hyoid bone
- Digastric Muscle - Steadies the hyoid bone when swallowing
- Superior Pharyngeal Constrictor Muscle - Innermost and highest constrictor muscle that helps to propel food through the oesophagus
- Middle Pharyngeal Constrictor Muscle - Helps propel food through the oesophagus
- Inferior Pharyngeal Constrictor Muscle - Outermost and lowest constrictor muscle that overlaps the middle constrictor muscle and helps propel food through the oesophagus
- Cricopharyngeus Muscle - Part of the inferior constrictor muscle, is the sphincter of the entrance of the oesophagus
- Salpingopharyngeus Muscle - Elevates the larynx and pharynx
- Palatopharyngeus Muscle - Helps elevates the larynx and pharynx
- Longitudinal Oesophageal Muscle - Helps propel food down the oesophagus
Common Challenges With The Pharynx:
The pharynx, along with most parts of the throat, is very susceptible to infection and inflammation. If you suspect either of these it is important to seek help from a medical professional to mitigate any further damage from happening.
Helpful Ways To Keep The Pharynx Healthy:
Keeping the pharynx healthy is important to keeping your overall health in check as you age. An unhealthy pharynx makes verbal communication, eating, and breathing much more difficult. Some easy ways to keep the pharynx healthy include:
- Stay hydrated - keeping the vocal cords moist will help keep friction between the vocal cords from happening.
- Breath through your nose - although not always possible, breathing through your nose helps add moisture to the air you are breathing in. If you are in an arid environment try using a humidifier at night.
- Avoid Irritants - alcohol and smoking can harm the vocal cords. Mitigating intake can help save your vocal cords from damage. This can also mean using an air filter if you are in an area where allergens or pollutants are high.
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Knowing pharynx anatomy, and how you can properly care for your pharynx and tonsils will help you keep a healthy for the entirety of your life. Nothing is more fear-provoking than not being able to communicate with the outside world, and the easiest way to do that is through your voice. So take care of it and it will take care of you.