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Epiglottis is a small but very important organ of our body. It plays a very crucial role in our digestive system and respiratory system. Honestly, this small organ doesn’t really get the credit it should get. In this article on epiglottis facts, we are going to learn what it really is, what it does and why it is important. In case we miss something, let us know.

Epiglottis Facts: 1-5

1. Epiglottis is a flap like cartilaginous structure which covers the glottis. Glottis is the opening of larynx. Epiglottis is extremely flexible, thanks to the elastic cartilage. It switches between the esophagus and larynx so that the food passes through esophagus and the air passes through the larynx.

2. It opens up while breathing and closes while swallowing, to prevent food from entering into the windpipe and lungs.

3. When it rests, it is situated on the posterior end of the tongue. When it is looked from the posterior side, it looks like a teardrop – wide, round-shaped at the anterior end and tapering at the posterior end.

4. It has a leaf like structure and it is covered by mucus membrane. The epiglottis is attached to the inner side of the thyroid cartilage.

5. Larynx consists of nine cartilages and epiglottis is one of them. While breathing, it stays inside the larynx and while swallowing, it acts as an upper part of the pharynx.

Epiglottis Facts: 6-10

6. Epiglottis is pretty much visible from the fifth month of gestation itself.

7. It consists of two tiny ligaments – thyroepiglottic ligament and hyoepiglottic ligament, which holds the epiglottis during its resting position.

8. Thyroepiglottic ligament connects the lower region of the epiglottis to the larynx’s thyroid cartilage. The higher region of the anterior surface is connected to the hyoid bone (a bone which is of horse shoe shape, situated between the thyroid cartilage and chin. It is also called as lingual bone or tongue bone).

9. Epiglottis consists of two surfaces – an anterior surface facing towards the tongue and a posterior surface facing towards the larynx. Complete anterior surface and a part of posterior surface of the epiglottis is covered with stratified squamous non-keratinized epithelium that is in continuation with the pharynx and mouth.

10. The other part of the posterior surface is covered by pseudostratified ciliated columnar cells and goblet cells which secrete mucus (this is also called as respiratory epithelium) is in continuation with the epithelium of respiratory organs.

Epiglottis Facts: 11-15

11. Under this epithelium, there is thin areolar connective tissue. It supplies blood vessels and nerve fibers to the epithelium.

12. Below this layer is the elastic cartilage. It contains elastin protein fibers and a gel like matrix.

13. Most of the day, the epiglottis stays relaxed and allows the air passage.

14. When the food is swallowed, the hyoid bone moves up pulling the larynx upwards. The epiglottis more or less becomes horizontal to cover the glottis (opening of larynx). In this way, the epiglottis prevents food from entering the trachea.

15. However, the food can be diverted most of the times even if there is no epiglottis (if damaged by any disease).

Epiglottis Facts: 16-20

16. When the food or any object touches the roof of your mouth or back of your tongue or near your tonsils or back of your throat, the back of your throat contracts and this is called gag reflex. This happens when epiglottis fails to do its job.

17. This gag reflex is also called as laryngeal spasm or pharyngeal reflex. This reflex prevents choking.

18. Epiglottitis is the inflammation of epiglottis. It is caused by Haemophilus influenza.

19. The symptoms include fever, difficulty in swallowing and breathing and sore throat.

20. Medication is sufficient to cure this disease but acute epiglottitis is considered as medical emergency.

Bonus Epiglottis Facts:

1. Epiglottis was described for the first time by Aristotle , the father of Biology and Zoology. The function of epiglottis was given by Vesalius in the year 1543.

2. There can be a variation in larynx which leads to visible and high-rising epiglottis. It looks a bit worrisome but if the person is healthy, it poses no problem.

3. Did you know that there are taste buds even on epiglottis?

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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