- Symptoms & Signs
- Inhalation & Exhalation
- Breathing Cycle
Facts you should know about the anatomy of the lungs
- The lungs exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide between the air we breathe and the blood.
- The tracheobronchial tree is the passage way from the mouth to the interior of the lung.
- Gas exchange occurs in the alveoli deep in the lungs.
- Breathing air in (inhalation) requires muscular effort.
- Air is warmed, humidified, and cleaned by the nose and lungs.
What are the lungs?
The lungs are a pair of organs in the chest that are primarily responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the air we breathe and the blood.
What are the symptoms of carbon dioxide poisoning?
- The cells in the body constantly need a new supply of oxygen to produce energy.
- With lack of oxygen, cellular function is impaired and damage or cell death may occur.
- As energy is utilized, waste products are created, one of which is the gas carbon dioxide.
- Eliminating carbon dioxide from the body is just as important as breathing in oxygen from the air.
- If carbon dioxide builds up in the blood it will lead to headaches, drowsiness, coma, and eventually even death.
What is the structure of the respiratory system?
Air enters the body via the nose (preferably) or the mouth. The air enters the main windpipe, called the trachea, and continues en route to each lung via either the right or left bronchus (plural=bronchi). The lungs are separated into sections called lobes, two on the left and three on the right. The air passages continue to divide into ever smaller tubes, which finally connect with tiny air sacs called alveoli. This gradually branching array of tubes is referred to as the tracheobronchial "tree" because of the remarkable similarity to the branching pattern of a tree.
The other half of the respiratory system involves blood circulation. Venous blood from the body is returned to the right side of the heart and then pumped out via the pulmonary artery. This artery splits in two for the left and right lungs and then continues to branch much like the tracheobronchial tree. These vessels branch into a fine network of very tiny tubes called capillaries. The capillaries are situated adjacent to the alveoli and are so small that only one red blood cell at a time can pass through their openings. It is during this passage that gases are exchanged between the blood and the air in the nearby alveoli. After passing the alveoli, capillaries then join together to begin forming the pulmonary veins, which carry the blood back to the left side of the heart.
What are the differences between inhalation and exhalation?
Respiration is divided into two components, inhalation and exhalation.
Inhalation is active, because it requires muscle contraction. The major muscle of respiration is a sheet-like dome shaped muscle called the diaphragm that is located below the lungs. The diaphragm separates the chest and abdominal cavities. As the diaphragm contracts, it flattens out, moving toward the abdominal cavity. This action causes an increase in the size of the chest cavity, thus creating a vacuum. Air is then sucked in through the mouth or nose. When physical activity increases dramatically, or with some lung conditions, other muscles like those of the neck and those between the ribs also assist in the increase in size of the chest cavity. These muscles are referred to as accessory muscles of respiration.
Exhalation is passive because it does not require muscle contraction. During this phase, the expanded lung acts like a stretched rubber band and simply contracts to its resting position. This contraction forces air out of the lungs and through the mouth.
What is the process of the respiratory system?
- As energy is utilized by cells, one of the waste products is the gas carbon dioxide.
- Oxygen-enriched red blood cells release oxygen to the cells of the body and then pick up the waste carbon dioxide.
- This oxygen- deprived, dark blue blood is then delivered to the blood vessels of the lungs.
- Carbon dioxide is released by the red cells, easily passes through the capillary wall into the space in the air sac of the adjacent alveoli, and is then eliminated with each breath out of the mouth (exhalation).
- Oxygen present in the air sac easily passes into the capillaries and into the red blood cells.
- The capillary network carrying this oxygen-rich, bright red blood flows to larger vessels and eventually empties into the left side of the heart where it is pumped to all the tissues of the body.
- Thus, the cycle or circle of blood is complete; hence, the name circulation.
What are other important events during the breathing cycle?
- Outside air needs to be heated and moistened to match the body's temperature and humidity.
- As air passes down the tracheobronchial tree, it is warmed and water is added.
- Contaminants must also be removed.
- Nose hairs and tiny microscopic hairs called cilia, along with sticky mucus produced by the lining membrane help cleanse the air of impurities.
- Cilia beat in a synchronized fashion brushing any collected dirt and mucus up toward the mouth.
- The accumulated material is then coughed out or swallowed. By the time the air reaches the alveoli, it is virtually sterile.
IMAGESSee a medical illustration of the lungs plus our entire medical gallery of human anatomy and physiology See Images
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Lungs Design And Purpose Related Articles
Respiratory Illnesses: 13 Types of Lung InfectionsIs your cough caused by a cold, flu, pneumonia or something else? Learn causes of respiratory infection like bronchitis, pneumonia, SARS, Coronavirus COVID-19 bird flu, and more.
What Is Asthma? Symptoms, Causes, and TreatmentsWhat is asthma? What is the main cause of asthma? Learn information about asthma, a chronic disease of the bronchiole tubes. Discover information about asthma attacks, complications of asthma, and how to control an asthma attack.
Asthma QuizAsthma is a chronic disease of the airways of the lungs, which can be managed with proper treatment. Triggered by two main causes, asthma symptoms can be brought on by environmental factors and surprising allergens.
Chest X-RayChest X-Ray is a type of X-Ray commonly used to detect abnormalities in the lungs. A chest X-ray can also detect some abnormalities in the heart, aorta, and the bones of the thoracic area. A chest X-ray can be used to define abnormalities of the lungs such as excessive fluid (fluid overload or pulmonary edema), fluid around the lung (pleural effusion), pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, cysts, and cancers. Normal chest X-ray shows normal size and shape of the chest wall and the main structures in the chest
Chronic CoughChronic cough is a cough that does not go away and is generally a symptom of another disorder such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, sinus infection, cigarette smoking, GERD, postnasal drip, bronchitis, pneumonia, medications, and less frequently tumors or other lung disease.
Chronic cough treatment is based on the cause, but may be soothed natural and home remedies.
COPD QuizCOPD is a combination of three conditions? Take this quiz to learn the three conditions that make up the pulmonary disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD Lung SymptomsCOPD is a pulmonary disorder caused by obstructions in the airways of the lungs leading to breathing problems. Learn about COPD symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.
CT Scan vs. MRI
CT scan (computerized tomography) is a procedure that uses X-rays to scan and take images of cross-sections of parts of the body. CT scan can help diagnose broken bones, tumors or lesions in areas of the body, blood clots in the brain, legs, and lung, and lung infections or diseases like pneumonia or emphysema.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a procedure that uses strong magnetic fields and radiofrequency energy to make images of parts of the body, particularly, the organs and soft tissues like tendons and cartilage.
Both CT and MRI are painless, however, MRI can be more bothersome to some individuals who are claustrophobic, or suffer from anxiety or panic disorders due to the enclosed space and noise the machine makes.
MRI costs more than CT, while CT is a quicker and more comfortable test for the patient.
What Are the Different Types of Mechanical Ventilation?Mechanical ventilation is a treatment to help a person breathe when they find it difficult or are unable to breathe on their own. A mechanical ventilator pushes airflow into the patient’s lungs. Mechanical ventilation is part of the arsenal of supportive care clinicians use for COVID-19 coronavirus disease patients with the most severe lung symptoms.
Cough: 19 Tips on How to Stop a CoughCoughing is a reflex that helps a person clear their airways of irritants. There are many causes of an excessive or severe cough including irritants like cigarette and secondhand smoke, pollution, air fresheners, medications like beta blockers and ACE inhibitors, the common cold, GERD, lung cancer, and heart disease.Natural and home remedies to help cure and soothe a cough include staying hydrated, gargle salt water, use cough drops or lozenges, use herbs and supplements like ginger, mint, licorice, and slippery elm, and don't smoke. Over-the-counter products (OTC)to cure and soothe a cough include cough suppressants and expectorants, and anti-reflux drugs. Prescription drugs that help cure a cough include narcotic medications, antibiotics, inhaled steroids, and anti-reflux drugs like proton pump inhibitors or PPIs, for example, omeprazole (Prilosec), rabeprazole (Aciphex), and pantoprazole (Protonix).
Lung Cancer SlideshowLearn about lung cancer early warning signs, symptoms and treatments. What causes stage IV lung cancer? Get more information on small cell lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and the diagnosis of lung cancer stages.
Know Your Lung Cancer Facts QuizLung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the U.S. and worldwide. Get the facts about lung cancer with this quiz.
Lungs PictureThe lungs are a pair of spongy, air-filled organs located on either side of the chest (thorax). See a picture of the Lungs and learn more about the health topic.
Nasal Airway Surgery (Septoplasty) and TurbinectomyDeviated septum surgery (septoplasty) and turbinectomy (nasal airway surgery) is performed on individuals who have a deviated or crooked septum or enlarged tissues (turbinates) within the nose. The goal of surgery is to improve breathing, control nosebleeds, relieve sinus headaches, and promote drainage of the sinus cavities. Risks and complications of surgery should be discussed with the surgeon prior to surgery.
PneumoniaPneumonia is inflammation of the lungs caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Symptoms and signs include cough, fever, shortness of breath, and chills. Antibiotics treat pneumonia, and the choice of the antibiotic depends upon the cause of the infection.
What Are the Side Effects of the Pneumonia Vaccine?The pneumonia vaccine can help protect against pneumococcal infections. Learn what the pneumonia vaccine is all about, and what to do if you experience side effects.
What Is Mucus?Mucus is a normal substance produced by lining tissues in the body. Excess mucus or mucus that is yellow, green, brown, or bloody may indicate a problem. Mucus production may increase when allergies, a cold, flu, cough, or sore throat are present. Antihistamines and cold and flu medications may help alleviate excess mucus. A neti pot may be used to decrease nasal congestion and clear mucus.
What Is the Life Expectancy of Someone With COPD?Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of diseases with the chief symptom of breathlessness and cough. COPD is a slowly progressive disease. Depending on the disease severity, the five-year life expectancy for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) ranges from 40%-70%. That means 40-70 out of 100 people will be alive after five years of diagnosis of COPD.