The nasopharynx is, by definition, the upper part of the throat behind the nose. It is a part of the pharynx, which comprises three sections: the nasopharynx, oropharynx and the hypopharynx. It is 2 to 3 cm wide and 3 to 4 cm long and is situated behind the nasal fossa inside the occipital bone. According to Cedars-Sinai research, the nasopharynx is the space above the soft palate at the back of the nose and connects the nose to the mouth, which allows a person to breathe through the nose. The soft palate separates the nasopharynx from the oropharynx, which sits just below the soft palate. The nasopharynx remains open even when surrounding muscles flex so that the person can continue to carry on respiratory functions. The nasopharynx is surrounded by the salpingopharyngeal and tubular tonsils, which can become inflamed when infected. It contains adenoid tissue and the openings to the Eustachian tubes, which leads to the ears. It provides a major drainage path for lymphatic fluids and generally drains into the throat, nose or ears.
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
In Depth: Nasopharynx