Pharynx is a muscular tube that is located behind the mouth, nasal cavity and the larynx. Given below is some information on some of the common diseases of the pharynx along with their effect on one’s health.
Pharynx is a hollow tubular structure that is positioned behind the nasal cavities, mouth and the voice box. The soft palate and uvula separate this tubular structure from the mouth. It starts from the base of the skull and extends till the esophagus. Pharynx is made up from muscle tissues and thick fascia and is lined by mucus membranes, which is why, it is also referred to as a musculomembranous cavity. This hollow tube is divided into nasopharynx, oropharynx and hypopharynx.
It is a common passageway for food as well as air, and is therefore, a part of the respiratory system as well as the digestive system. Thus, the main function of the pharynx is to act as a conduit for air as well as food. Since pharynx is connected with the nasal as well as oral cavity, it can come in contact with the disease-causing agents that may be present in the inhaled air or the ingested food, which in turn, would give rise to pharyngeal infections or diseases. Given below is some information on the common diseases of the pharynx.
Common Pharyngeal Diseases
While pharyngitis is one of the most common disease that affects pharynx, pharynx function could also get adversely affected by other medical conditions. Here’s some information on some of the common pharyngeal diseases.
The term ‘pharyngitis’ refers to the inflammation of the pharynx. This condition is caused due to the proliferation of bacteria, viruses or other pathogens in the throat. One may be diagnosed with acute pharyngitis or chronic pharyngitis, depending on the onset as well as the severity of the symptoms one may experience. Acute pharyngitis may be catarrhal (inflammation of mucus membranes), purulent (production of pus) or ulcerative (development of ulcers) in nature. Group A Streptococcus, Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydophila pneumoniae are some of the types of bacteria that are commonly responsible for causing inflammation of the pharynx.
Viruses that may cause conditions such as infectious mononucleosis, common cold or influenza could also be the causal organisms for this condition. Viruses are more commonly responsible for causing acute pharyngitis. Exposure to environmental irritants or allergenic substances could also make one susceptible to chronic pharyngitis. A person suffering from this condition is most likely to suffer from symptoms such as swelling or redness in throat, fever, muscle aches, cough, earaches, malaise or difficulty in swallowing. Drug therapy coupled with certain home remedies can help in alleviating the symptoms of pharyngitis.
An anatomical weakness in some of the muscles of pharynx could give rise to the development of a pharyngeal pouch. This condition is also referred to as Zenker’s diverticulum. The term ‘diverticulum’ refers to a sac-like structure that may develop due to the herniation of the contents of an organ cavity through weak spots in the muscle wall. Pharyngeal mucosa could bulge through the weak spots in the cricopharyngeus and thyropharyngeus muscles that are located at the top of the food pipe.
A pharyngeal pouch may develop when the fibers of lower pharyngeal muscles are unable to relax as one tries to swallow food. This may gives rise to pressure, and cause development of a diverticulum in this region. Dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing food is one of the most common symptoms of this pharyngeal condition. One may also experience a lump in the throat sensation. Back flow of ingested food could also be experienced by patients. In severe cases, doctors may recommend endoscopic surgery to get rid of the pharyngeal pouch.
Cancer refers to the development of a malignant growth due to abnormal or uncontrolled cell division. Cancer of the pharynx as well as the larynx are categorized as throat cancer. The development of a cancerous growth could take place in the nasopharynx, oropharynx or hypopharynx. Smoking and alcohol abuse have long been established as the most common risk factors for cancer of the pharynx. Those who chew tobacco or take tobacco in any form are highly susceptible to pharyngeal cancer.
The risk would be even higher in case of people who indulge in smoking as well as excessive consumption of alcohol. Development of sores, throat pain, lump in throat sensation and development of swollen lymph nodes in neck are some of the common symptoms of pharyngeal cancer. As the malignant growth enlarges in size, it may start interfering with one’s ability to breathe, and may cause shortness of breath. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are some of the treatment options that are used for destroying the cancerous cells.
Out of the aforementioned diseases, pharyngitis is one condition that commonly affects children and adults. At times, an infection in the parapharyngeal space may give rise to the development of a pus-filled abscess. Under such circumstances, doctors may surgically drain the abscess and recommend the use of antibiotics or drugs to treat the infection.