Pharynx Function: What is it? Structure, Functions, Arterial Supply and Clinical Conditions

It is located in the back of the throat, where it exists as a muscular cavity that is approximately 5 inches (12.7 cm) long.


The entry point for nutrition is the nasopharynx. The pharynx is the junction of the nose and mouth. There are three parts of the pharynx called the nasopharynx, oropharynx, and hypopharynx, depending on their location along the cavity.

The midsection of the nasopharynx is located between the soft palate and the hyoid bone region. This middle region is known as the oropharynx.

The base of the tongue creates the anterior wall of the oropharynx. The palatine tonsils are along the posterior lateral wall, and along the bottom of the language are the lingual tonsils.

Located directly behind the nasal cavity and just above the soft palate, this is the highest point in the pharynx.

The uvula, which is the pendulum-like attachment that sits over the opening of the esophagus, hangs from the lower middle segment of the soft palate.

The inner walls of the pharynx are covered with a mucous layer that serves to help food pass through during the digestive process.


The Eustachian tubes, the vital auditory tubes, join the tympanic cavities with the nasopharynx.

Adenoids, also known as pharyngeal tonsils, are located in the nasal cavity along the back wall.

The uvula and soft palate lift to prevent food from mistakenly entering the nasal cavity when swallowed.

As the uvula and soft palate enlarge, they create a blockage along the way, forcing food down the esophagus.

The sudden expulsion of air when swallowing fluid from the uvula creates a blockage, preventing the fluid from entering the nasopharynx and forcing the liquid out of the nasal cavity.

The lowest region of the pharynx can be found from the part of the hyoid bone to the esophagus and larynx.

This section is known as the laryngopharynx. The digestive system and the respiratory system become two separate systems in the lower region of the laryngopharynx.

Here, the food and liquid that have been swallowed are directed to the esophagus, and the air that has been inhaled is directed to the anterior larynx.


The pharynx is the digestive system that plays an important role. This muscular structure passes food and liquids from the mouth into the esophagus during swallowing.

The unique construction and location of the pharynx allow it to perform this role in indigestion and, at the same time, function as part of the respiratory system.

Vocalization sounds also resonate throughout the pharynx, creating additional responsibility for speech assistance.

The pharynx is segregated into three primary regions, based primarily on the function it performs and the area it serves.

A swallowing center controls the swallowing mechanism in the medulla oblongata and the pons.

Touch receptors initiate it in the pharynx as a food bolus that reaches the back of the throat.

The soft palate is stretched upward to stop food from entering the nasal cavity. Some palatopharyngeal folds are closed so that only a tiny bolus can pass (preventing posterior blockage).

The larynx is pulled up towards the epiglottis, which passively shuts off its entrance, and the vocal cords are brought closer together, narrowing the passage between them.

The swallowing center directly inhibits the respiratory center of the medulla while swallowing occurs – swallowing apnea (swallowing stopping inhalation).

The upper esophageal sphincter relaxes to let food through, and then a sequence of striated constrictor muscles in the pharynx does some peristalsis.

Arterial and venous supply

The arteries

  1. Ascending pharynx.
  2. Branches of lingual, facial (tonsillar, palatine ascending), maxilla.
  1. Pharyngeal branches of the inferior thyroid artery.


They form a plexus that drains the pterygoid network, inferiorly in facial veins and VYI.

Nervous fountain

The inversion is of a sensitive type.

  • The nasopharynx: pharyngeal branch of the maxillary nerve.
  • La oropharynx: glossopharyngeal nerve.
  • The laryngopharynx: the vagus nerve.


The lymphatic vessels drain directly into the deep cervical lymph nodes or indirectly into the retropharyngeal or paratracheal nodes.

Clinical conditions

Occasionally, problems with the pharynx are often found after symptoms such as pain, swelling or inflammation, itching, and difficulty swallowing develop.

A doctor should be seen for a definitive diagnosis so that appropriate treatment can begin when a problem with the pharynx is suspected.

Among the most common diseases of the pharynx we have:

  • Pharyngeal cancer: it is a malignant neoplasm of the throat.
  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma: is cancer of the nasopharynx.
  • Pharyngitis .
  • Dysphagia .
  • Paresthesias of the pharynx.
  • Diphtheria.