The upper part of the respiratory system is made up of the nose and throat and structures associated with them. These include the sinuses (the air-filled cavities in the front of the skull) and the larynx, also known as the voice box. The upper respiratory system can be affected by a variety of disorders ranging from common complaints, such as nosebleeds, snoring, and laryngitis, to rare conditions such as cancers of the throat and larynx.
Disorders that affect the nose and the sinuses are covered first in this section. These conditions include nosebleeds, which are often a symptom of a minor injury but are sometimes due to a serious underlying disorder, and sinusitis, inflammation of the sinuses, which is usually caused by a viral infection such as the common cold.
Obstruction in the nasal passages may cause problems with sleep, and two such disorders, snoring and sleep apnoea, are covered here. Articles follow on common conditions that involve inflammation of the throat or larynx, such as pharyngitis, tonsillitis, and laryngitis. Finally, noncancerous growths in the larynx, known as vocal cord nodules, and cancers of the throat and larynx are discussed.
Infections that affect the nose and the throat are described elsewhere (see Infections and infestations), as is allergic rhinitis, a common disorder of the nose. Disorders of the nose and throat that are common in children, such as enlarged adenoids, are covered in another section (see Infancy and childhood).
For further information on the structure and function of the nose and throat, see Steam Inhalation.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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