Anatomy of the Nose and Throat

A diagram of human nasal anatomy

The Nose

As we all know, the nose is the organ involved in smell and breathing. It’s more complex than it seems and is made up of several specialized parts:

  • The external nasal meatus is a cartilaginous projection in the center of the face. It is the external part of the nose and comes in many sizes and shapes.
  • The nostrils are two openings leading to the sinuses, divided by the septum.
  • The septum is a bony and cartilaginous support structure, giving the nose its shape.
  • The nasal passages are cavities connected to the nostrils that are lined with mucous membranes and tiny hairs (cilia) to filter air and trap particles.

A drawing of the anatomy of human sinus cavitiesA drawing of the anatomy of human sinus cavities


The Sinuses

The sinuses are four air-filled pockets near the nasal passage. They lighten the skull, aid vocal resonance, and are lined with mucous membranes to keep microbes, pollen, dust, and other invaders at bay.

  • The ethmoid sinus is present at birth and continues to grow until puberty. It is located near the bridge of the nose.
  • The maxillary sinus is located near the cheeks. It is also present at birth.
  • The frontal sinus, located in the forehead area, does not develop until around seven years of age.
  • The sphenoid sinus is the last sinus to appear. It fully develops in adolescence and is located deep in the face, behind the nose.

A diagram of the human mouth and throat

The Throat

The throat is a muscular tube that acts as the passageway for air, food, and liquid, and is an integral part of producing speech.

  • The larynx (voice box) is a cylindrical mass of cartilage, muscle, and soft tissue that contains the vocal cords.
  • The vocal cords lie at the upper opening of the trachea (windpipe).
  • The epiglottis is a flap of soft tissue located just above the vocal cords. It folds down over them to prevent food and irritants from entering the lungs.
  • The tonsils and adenoids are lumps of lymph tissue located at the back of the nasal passage and on the sides of the mouth. They protect against viral and bacterial infections.

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