The term ‘epiglottis’ is used to refer to a cartilaginous flap in the throat.
Epiglottitis also refers to a medical emergency that arises when the tissue flap covering the trachea while swallowing gets swollen or infected, leading to obstruction and inflammation that can seal the trachea. In such cases, the problem can be potentially life threatening. Anyone suspected with this fatal condition should immediately be taken to the emergency department of a hospital.
It lies before the larynx and behind the tongue. Generally, it lies upright in a resting position and let air pass into the lungs and the larynx.
While swallowing, the Epiglottis cartilage flap folds back and covers the point of entry to the larynx in order to prevent the entry of food, water and other fluids into the trachea (windpipe) and the lungs. Once swallowing is done, the epiglottis goes back to its normal upright posture.
Anything that results in a swelling of the small cartilaginous flap covering the trachea, leading to blockage of air flow into the lungs, can be a potential cause of Epiglottitis. Such causes mainly include:
Infection caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), the type of bacterium causing pneumonia, bloodstream infections and infections, is the most common factors causing Epiglottitis in children. Epiglottitis is possible in any age. Although epiglottitis has been made rare due to Hib vaccination for infants on a routine basis, it is still a cause for worry. Emergency help is necessary, as prompt treatment can help prevent fatal complications arising from Epiglottis swelling due to infection.
Epiglottitis Cancer is a tumor in the larynx that arises at the epiglottis level. The cancer is most common in males over 50 years of age, and is mainly associated to the consumption of tobacco and alcohol. Exposure to cement dust or asbestos is a potentially dangerous factor that may also be related to this kind of cancer.
Epiglottis cancer symptoms can include anemia, hair loss, nausea or vomiting.
Cancerous epiglottis treatment is chosen based on at what stage of development the tumor is. Support and treatment involves:
Epiglottitis surgery involves various surgical methods, like pharyngectomie, cordectomy and laryngectomy. Such methods are carried out as per how severe the cancer is. Surgery does not generally result in complications.
It is often useful, and used as an auxiliary to surgery. It is used widely as a practical treatment for throat cancer in all developmental stages, due to specific cancer cell sensitivity to radiation. There can be side effects, like oral infections, change in skin appearance, laryngeal inflammation that involves pain and change in smell and taste.
Chemotherapy is generally administered in the advanced stages, and is most often related to radiotherapy and surgery.
Such methods of treatment may be designed to reduce recurrence risks, preventing the spread of tumor and for destroying cancerous cells. Treatments have to be strictly monitored in order to prevent complications. Twice-a-year visits to the dentist and good dental hygiene are important.
The following Epiglottis diagram and images will help you understand the appearance, structure, anatomy and location of this flap of cartilage in the body.
The videos show the location of Epiglottis in the human body, and the x ray of swallowing process.
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