Is that a laryngeal prominence in your throat or do you need the Heimlich?
Less commonly known as the laryngeal prominence, the Adam’s Apple is that bump in the front of your throat—a protective bit of cartilage that wraps around the front of your voicebox, or larynx.
Tough but flexible, the Adam’s Apple functions alongside a variety of other cartilaginous structures in your throat that keep airways clear and allow you to speak. Some of these structures keep food out of your windpipe—the epiglottic cartilage—while others articulate your vocal cords, creating speech—arytenoid cartilage. Your Adam’s Apple is part of the thyroid cartilage, which protects the entire front of your neck. In fact, the word “thyroid” comes from the ancient Greek word meaning “oval shield.”
Where did this bump come from?
The laryngeal prominence typically develops during puberty, mainly due to the release of testosterone, with both the larynx and its protective cartilage growing in tandem. The prominence itself is from what is called the “laryngeal notch,” or a small V formed by the cartilage walls.
The Adam’s Apple is considered a secondary sexual characteristic, meaning it typically develops differently for males and females, with males developing more prominent examples. However, both males and females do have Adam’s Apples.
“Females don’t often have as acute an angle to theirs, but we also have an Adam’s Apple,” says First Physicians Group Laryngologist Candace Hrelec, MD. “Males have a little more of an acute angle, so it can be much more prominent.”
What does it do?
Other than protecting your neck (kind of a big deal), not too much.
The thyroid cartilage protects your voicebox and interacts with other cartilages in the throat that produce speech, but the Adam’s Apple itself does not have an effect on speech and is not necessary for speech.
In fact, some people get cosmetic surgery to change the shape of their Adam’s Apple. This is commonly called a laryngeal shave, in lieu of the less commonly pronounceable chondrolaryngoplasty.
“We can even reduce the Adam’s Apple to make it less of an acute notch and make it look more feminine,” says Dr. Hrelec. “And this does not affect the voice.”
But really, protecting the neck is super important.
A bruised apple
In the course of carrying out its very important duties protecting your neck, it is possible to injure your Adam’s Apple. Steering wheel trauma, accident on the monkey bars, throat-punch from an old Kung Fu master, these things happen. But it’s important to look out for what could be a laryngeal fracture.
“These can lead to potentially life-threatening airway injuries and swelling,” says Dr. Hrelec, “so it’s very important to get any injury evaluated immediately.”
In addition to pain, signs include difficulty breathing, wheezing or changes to your voice.
If you notice any of these signs after suffering an injury to the throat or neck, call 9-1-1.
Hear more from Dr. Hrelec here:
Written by Sarasota Memorial copywriter Philip Lederer, MA, who crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. SMH’s in-house wordsmith, Lederer earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, Ky, and is working on his posture.