What is the Adam's Apple?
The Adam’s apple is the lump found at the front of the neck. It is much more obvious in men than in women and can usually be easily seen when you are eating or drinking as it moves up and down your throat when you swallow. It can also be seen when you cough or laugh, particularly if it is prominent. The Adam’s apple is so called as it was believed to be evidence of Adam and Eve taking a bite of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Its larger size in men was reputed to be the result of Adam getting a lump of apple stuck in his throat.
The medical term for an Adam’s apple is a laryngeal prominence. The tissue is formed by layers of thyroid cartilage that surround your larynx, or voice box. This thyroid cartilage provides protection for the larynx and continues to grow, with the larynx, until you reach adult size.
Do Women Have Adam’s Apples?Both men and women have Adam’s Apples but in men they are a lot bigger and much more obvious. In men, the two sections of thyroid cartilage that meet to form the protective layer around the voice box do so at an angle of about 90 degrees. In women the angle is about 120 degrees, which changes its orientation in the throat and makes it more difficult to see through the skin.
The Adam’s apple grows in both sexes at puberty and sort of drops into place. This event causes the sudden change that causes a boy’s voice to break. A girl’s voice also becomes quite a bit deeper around puberty but this is a more gradual change.
Problems with the Adam’s AppleThe most common problem that affects the Adam’s apple is laryngitis. This is an infection of the larynx that causes swelling and discomfort. Laryngitis causes an intensely painful sore throat, ear-ache and a hoarse and croaky voice. When it is at its height, the infection can cause the voice to be lost completely and in severe cases leads to problems with breathing and persistent coughing. It is important that you see your GP if you have any of these symptoms as laryngitis can last for weeks. Without treatment, a severe bacterial infection of the larynx can permanently damage your voice box, affecting your speech. Most severe infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
Stress can also affect the Adam’s Apple as tension in the neck, jaw, throat and upper chest pull on the vocal chords and the thyroid cartilage surrounding the larynx. Singers have to be particularly careful about straining their voice. Stress related problems can usually be treated by resting the voice and using relaxation techniques.
Removing the Adam’s AppleSurgery on the Adam’s Apple is rare. Most non-life threatening problems can be treated effectively with antibiotics or antihistamines. Laryngeal cancer can arise in the tissues of the vocal cords or elsewhere in the voice box and surgery to remove the Adam’s apple may be necessary to prevent the cancer spreading.
Surgery on the thyroid cartilage, a procedure called a chondrolaryngoplasty, can be done to reduce the prominence of the Adam’s apple but it’s a risky procedure which can damage the voice box leaving permanent changes to the voice. Some women who have a very obvious Adam’s apple may consider this as necessary cosmetic surgery. Men undergoing a sex change may also want their Adam’s apple to be removed, or made much less visible.