The trachea or ‘windpipe’ is a bony tube which runs from the larynx down to the lungs. It is situated in the front of the neck and ends at a point behind the breastbone (sternum).

A good way of thinking about this is to imagine the trachea as an upside down ‘tree trunk’which branches off to the left and right lungs. These are known as the ‘left bronchi’ and ‘right bronchi’ respectively.

The trachea is comprised of ‘C’ shaped rings of cartilage plus tissues and muscles which enable it to remain open when the neck is moved in a range of directions. They also enable it to contract so that food and liquid can pass down through the oesophagus.

The inner lining of the trachea contains cells, some of which secrete a sticky substance and others which have tiny hair-like fringes. The sticky substance traps foreign bodies and the fringes pulsate in order to keep the airways and lungs free from mucous.

Air is breathed in through the nose, via the larynx and the trachea. It continues down this until it reaches the two bronchi and enters the lungs.

The trachea is a vital part of our respiration system.

What can go wrong in the trachea?

The most common illness is tracheitis. This is more common in children than adults and is usually caused by the presence of bacteria within the trachea. This leads to inflammation (sore throat), fever, pain and discomfort.

It is usually treated with antibiotics although serious cases will require hospital treatment and intubation (insertion of a tube to help with breathing).

Other conditions include:

  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Tracheal stenosis (narrowing of the trachea)
  • Tracheomalacia (a weakening of the cartilage in the trachea)

Most conditions of the trachea result in a sore throat and other associated symptoms.

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved