What Is Adam’s Apple?
The Adam’s apple is a laryngeal prominence in the human neck. It is the largest thyroid cartilage in the larynx.
In men it can be seen as a protrusion or lump at the throat due to the acute (close to ninety degrees) angle at which the two portions of cartilage meet. Women have a much less pronounced laryngeal prominence because the cartilage forms an angle of about a hundred and twenty (1200) which creates a subtle open arc. 1,2
During puberty, the Adam’s apple in males considerably increases in size as part of the secondary sexual characteristics that are spurred by hormonal activity. The level of development of the Adam’s apple varies for different people. The Adam’s apple can be seen moving up and down whenever swallowing food or drinking fluids. In women the Adam’s apple can be seen by throwing the neck back and swallowing.
Adam’s Apple Location, Structure At Neck Region
The Adam’s apple has several functions:
- Protects the area of the larynx around which it is located including the walls, front and vocal cords.
- Deepens the voice during puberty. Rapid growth of the Adam’s apple during adolescence creates a large soundboard resulting in a deeper note of voice.1
Adam’s Apple Pain
The source of pain in the Adam’s apple is usually the surrounding organs like the thyroid gland and voice box which when inflamed or irritated give the illusion that the Adam’s apple itself is hurting.
There are several simple issues that can cause pain or discomfort in the Adam’s Apple:
- Sore throat is the most common cause of pain in the Adam’s apple.
- Severe infection of the upper respiratory tract e.g. influenza
- A fracture of the cartilage making up the Adam’s apple due to trauma e.g. receiving a blow to the neck might lead to inflammation of the area.
- Stress or tension in the muscles surrounding the thyroid cartilage e.g. from strain due to wrong posture, sudden turning or a sports related injury can cause pain.
- Thyroid gland infection or inflammation may cause pain in the Adam’s apple due to the close proximity of the two.
- Acid reflux that causes stomach acids to flow up into the esophagus can lead to its swelling causing a burning pain that is felt to be coming from the Adam’s apple.
More serious conditions that may be bringing about pain in your Adam’s apple include:
- Cysts or small tumors in the vocal cords or the thyroid cartilage itself.
- Thyroid cancer also causes pain the Adam’s apple alongside other symptoms. It is four times as likely to occur in women compared to men.
Usually people barely feel their Adam’s apple but certain condition can irritate the thyroid cartilage leading to the following symptoms:
- The Adam’s apple becomes tender to touch.
- Area around the Adam’s apple may be slightly red.
- A lump may form below the Adam’s apple.
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking.
- Pain in the Adam’s apple may be felt when speaking moving the neck or muscles in any way e.g. laughing, yawning or sneezing.
- A painful burning sensation may also be felt around the Adam’s apple, especially after meals.
- The voice may also become hoarse and scratchy.
It is important to distinguish the underlying cause of Adam’s apple pain before one can be treated. The pain may be due to a simple condition like a sore throat or acid reflux or a more serious condition like thyroid cancer.
To properly diagnose Adam’s apple pain the doctor may do the following:
- Perform a physical exam by feeling around the throat for any lumps or abnormalities.
- Inquire when the pain started and if it’s worse at particular times e.g. after meals.
- Ask you to hold various vocal notes for any signs of strain that may be related to the Adam’s apple pain.
- Ask about any other symptoms that started around the same time as the Adam’s apple pain.
- A scan maybe ordered if the doctor suspects that the pain in the Adam’s apple is caused by thyroid cancer.
The pain in the Adam’s apple can be easily diagnosed if it is accompanied by distinct symptoms of causative illnesses e.g
- If pain is accompanied by a lump below the Adam’s apple, fever and redness of the area then an infection of the thyroid or thyroid cartilage is the cause.
- Pain that usually occurs after meals or stressful events the likely underlying cause is acid reflux.
- When pain is felt alongside coughing up blood, weight loss and pain in the ear or jaw it is possible the cause is thyroid cancer.
Doctors cam recommend various treatment options for Adam’s apple pain depending on the underlying cause
- Anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed if pain has been caused by trauma or a sore throat.
- Painkillers are given to the patient to ease the pain and inflammation.
- Acid reflux can be reduced by the prescription of proton pump inhibitors
- Cysts or tumors in the thyroid gland or vocal cords can be removed by various methods including surgery to relieve the pain in the Adam’s apple.
- Thyroid cancer is treated according to how far it has progressed. Options include medication that slows the multiplication of cancerous cells or chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells.
- Avoid heavy smoking and drinking
- People suffering acid reflux should avoid alcohol and spicy foods that trigger the condition. They should also eat at least two hours before lying down or going to bed.
- Avoid any activities that may cause trauma to the throat area e.g. sudden turning of the neck.
- People prone to sore throat should avoid extremely cold and sugary foods.
- Apply a warm compress over the throat to ease discomfort and pain in the Adam’s apple.
- Salt dissolved in warm water can be used to gargle regularly to ease any inflammation around the thyroid cartilage.
- Adam’s Apple. http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam’s_apple
- Adam’s Apple Pain from New Health Advisor – https://newhealthadvisor.com/Adam’s-apple-pain.html
- Sore Adam’s Apple: Causes, Solutions. https://scarysymptoms.com/2012/07/sore-ada,s-apple-causes-solutions
- Pain in the Adam’s Apple when Swallowing: It’s Causes and Treatment. Tandrust – https://tandurust.com/health-answers/pain-in-adams-apple-treatment.html
- Abnormal Adam’s Apple. eHow – https://ehow.com/about_6319389_abnormal-adam_s-apple.html