What to know about the Adam’s apple

By Aaron Kandola 


Reviewed by Alana Biggers, MD, MPH

What is it? | Why do they
develop? | Difference in males and females? | Surgery and removal | Can it be a sign
of another condition? | Takeaway


The Adam’s apple is a lump of
cartilage that sticks out from the throat. It is more prominent in males, and
it serves no specific function. A person can remove or change the size of their
Adam’s apple with surgery.
Adam’s apples develop during
puberty and are not present in prepubescent children.
They are often more prominent
in males, who tend to develop larger larynxes than females. As the larynx grows
behind the Adam’s apple, it pushes the lump of cartilage outward.
The size of the Adam’s apple
varies. Here, we describe what an Adam’s apple is, why it develops, and options
for removal or reduction.


What
is an Adam’s apple?
The Adam’s apple, also known
as the laryngeal prominence, is made of cartilage. This is a connective tissue
present throughout the body.
Cartilage is strong, but
softer and more flexible than bone, and it makes up several other areas of the
neck.
The Adam’s apple develops
during puberty. It grows around the front of the larynx, just above the
thyroid. It is usually more prominent in males.
Why
do Adam’s apples develop?
During puberty, the larynx
grows and pushes the developing Adam’s apple outward.
The larynx, or voice box, is
the area at the front of the neck that contains the vocal cords. These are
folds of tissue that vibrate to produce sounds.
Along with other body parts,
such as the mouth and nasal passages, the larynx produces the voice. It also
protects the airways during swallowing.
The larynx grows extensively
during puberty. A larger larynx produces deeper sounds, as there is more room
for the vibrations to resonate.
The cartilage around the
larynx forms a shield to protect it from injury. The Adam’s apple protrudes as
the larynx grows, but it serves no individual function.


Difference in males and
females?


Both males and females develop
Adam’s apples, but they tend to stick out more in males than in females.
This is because the male
larynx generally grows bigger and faster during puberty.
A larger larynx explains why
males tend to have deeper and louder voices than females.
It is important to remember,
however, that this is not always the case.
Hormonal differences affect
the way that the larynx, and Adam’s apple, develop. As a result of these
differences, a male may have a smaller larynx and a voice with a higher pitch.
For the same reason, a female
may have a larger larynx, a more prominent Adam’s apple, and a voice with a
lower pitch.
Adam’s
apple surgery and removal
The size of the Adam’s apple
does not impact physical health in any way.
However, the size can be
problematic if a person feels that it does not match their body type or gender
identity.
For example, someone with a prominent
Adam’s apple may feel uncomfortable with what they perceive as a masculine
trait. Others may wish to have a bigger Adam’s apple for the same reason.
It is possible to enlarge the
Adam’s apple by transplanting cartilage from elsewhere in the body.
It is also possible to remove
excess cartilage from the area around the thyroid, reducing the size of the
Adam’s apple.

Can a big Adam’s apple be a
sign of another condition?


The Adam’s apple does not
serve any medically relevant function, and the size does not relate to any
health condition.
However, some conditions can
cause swelling in the larynx or growth in surrounding areas.
This can cause the Adam’s
apple to appear larger than usual.
Examples of these conditions
include:

  • laryngitis, which is
    inflammation of the larynx
  • pharyngitis, which is
    inflammation of the back of the throat
  • laryngeal cancer
  • thyroid cancer
  • Treatment for a large Adam’s
    apple varies, depending on the cause. It may involve medications such as
    antibiotics or corticosteroids.
If a person has cancer,
treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
Takeaway
The Adam’s apple is a growth
that protrudes from the thyroid cartilage. The size depends on how large the
larynx grows, but Adam’s apples are typically bigger in males.
A change in the size of a
surrounding area can make the Adam’s apple appear larger, and this can indicate
a more serious underlying condition.
The Adam’s apple itself does
not impact health, but some people choose to change the size through surgery.
SOURCE:
MEDICAL NEWS TODAY
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.