*Provided by the American Lung Association
Sinuses* (frontal, maxillary and sphenoidal)
Hollow spaces in the bones of the head that are connected to the nose by small openings, the sinuses are responsible for monitoring the temperature and humidity of the air breathed in, as well as adding resonance to the voice.
Nose* (nasal cavity)
Optimal entrance for inhalation due to hairs lining the walls and filtering the air.
Very small hairs that have a wave-like motion that is responsible for carrying mucus into the throat where it is coughed up or swallowed.
Sticky phlegm, liquid. Mucus traps dust, germs and unwanted matte that has invaded the lungs. It is disposed of by coughing, sneezing, clearing your throat and swallowing. Tall cells lining the bronchioles secrete this mucus which traps dirt and travels to the mouth and nose by use of the cilia.
Mouth (oral cavity)*
Secondary entrance for inhalation.
Lymph tissue located at the top of the throat, these can be removed for medical reasons such as enlargement that interferes with breathing. The lymph system is made of nodes (knots of cells) and vessels that are responsible for carrying fluid around the body. It is also a part of the immune system and is necessary for producing lymphocytes to fight infection and germs, and for filtering foreign matter out of the body to resist infection.
Responsible for fighting germs, but these lymph nodes in the wall of the throat often become infected and in many cases are removed.
A continuous membrane folded over itself, the pleura is often considered two. This surrounds each lobe of the lungs, separating the lungs from the chest wall.
Part of the muscular system and a major part of respiration; this strong wall of muscle is situated between the chest cavity and the abdominal cavity. Moving downward creates suction in the chest and draws are in while expanding the lungs. Exhalation is the opposite process.
Slightly moving part of the skeletal system that is responsible for the protection of the chest cavity.
Muscles between the ribs
Lymph Nodes (in the lungs)
Located against the walls of the bronchial tubes and trachea, they are a part of the immunity response.
Acts as a passageway allowing air coming in from the nose and mouth into the trachea (windpipe).
This simple flap of tissue protects the entrance of the trachea, opening during respiratory functions and closed while swallowing to re-direct substances other than air to the esophagus and stomach.
Voice Box (larynx)*
As holder of the vocal chords, this is the site where the movement of air caused by inhalation and exhalation provides the sound of our voice.
Passageway from the mouth and throat to the stomach.
Passageway from the pharynx to the lungs.
The trachea divides into two main tubes, known as the Bronchial Tubes, one going towards each lung. These then divide into a branch for each lobe of the lungs which then divide further.
The right lung is made of three lobes, sections. Each lobe is filled with alveoli, air sacks, and the air moves in and out through one bronchial tube.
The left lung is made of two lobes, sections. Each lobe is identical to those of the Right Lung.
The smallest subdivisions of the bronchial tubes and the location of the air sacs (singular alveoli, plural alveolus)
These air sacs are the final destination of the air taken in during inhalation before entering the circulatory system.
Blood vessels and members of the circulatory system, they are imbedded in the walls of the alveoli where oxygen diffuses into the blood they contain and carbon dioxide (a waste product) replaces it in the alveoli to be exhaled.
Blood that is oxygen-poor is carried to the capillaries around the alveoli.
Oxygen-rich blood returns to the heart and blood stream via the pulmonary vein.
*These anatomical sites are members of the respiratory system's Conduction Zone and do not administer to the processes of gas exchange, anatomic sites in which gas exchange occurs are part of the Respiratory Zone.
Through the use of the Kidneys and the Respiratory System, the Medulla Oblongata has control over the body's pH. pH, a measure of acidity where 7 is neutral, and a range from 1, extremely acidic, to a basic, alkaline, 14. pH in the body must be 7.4 with a range from 7.35-7.45. The respiratory system is the primary method for monitoring and correcting any problems in our pH.
Carbon dioxide, the waste product of our cells, is hydrophobic and therefore unable to be dissolved well in plasma, which is mainly water. Carbon dioxide changes to carbonic acid which breaks down into bicarbonate in the following reaction:
+ H2O ŗ
Bicarbonate is hydrophilic and easily dissolves in the plasma. Not all of the carbonic acid completely breaks down to bicarbonate, allowing the general trend to be made that more carbon dioxide results in more carbonic acid which consequently has a higher acidity. When acidity increases, respiratory rate increases as well to dispose of the extra acid. If the blood's pH is basic, respiratory rate decreases to hold the carbon dioxide in the blood until the pH has resumed 7.4.
On a physical level, the lungs are attached inside the chest cavity. Intercostals allow the chest cavity to expand and relax into it's normal position. As the diaphragm relaxes it curls underneath the ribs. Contraction of the diaphragm pulls it down and increases the size of the chest cavity, respectively increasing the size of the lungs. Air flows into the lungs to fill the empty space. Thus inspiration occurs. The diaphragm relaxes into it's normal position and expiration releases carbon dioxide and water into the air.
The involuntary action of breathing is not a response to a necessity of oxygen, but a change to monitor the amount of carbon dioxide in the body.
Gas exchange occurs between the alveoli in the lungs and small pulmonary capillaries. Hydrophobic gases, lipid soluble, are permitted to move between the alveoli and capillaries by passive diffusion. Oxygen, with a higher concentration in an alveolus, moves down the concentration gradient and into the capillaries. Carbon dioxide flows from the capillaries, an area of higher concentration, into the alveolus.
Respiratory Disorders and Diseases
There are many illnesses and infectious diseases centered around the respiratory system. Tuberculosis (one of the most rapidly spreading disease in the world), SARS: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (a recently discovered disease), Avian Influenza, and Bronchitis to name a few. Research is available on all of these topics; however, this website will be focusing on non-communicable disorders and diseases.
Asthma is a respiratory disease often accompanied by long bouts of wheezing and occasional "Asthma Attacks." Children of families in which this disease is present are more susceptible to developing it. There are no known cures or preventive methods for this disease, nor information as to how it is arises in the individual. People with this disease (20.3 million in 2001*) are able to use an inhaler before an attack if they are aware of the signs. Many try to avoid triggers that will irritate the lungs and cause an attack. Beyond wheezing, chest-tightness, breathlessness and morning and night coughing are symptoms of this disease. During an asthma attack the sides of the airways in a person's lungs become swollen and inflamed. This causes the airway to shrink and less air to reach the persons lungs. A buildup of mucus, accompanying the swelling, will clog the airways further.
Lung Cancer is usually caused by cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking alone is the cause of the most amount of preventable premature deaths in the United States. Cancer is an uncontrolled division of cells. These growths may produce tumors. There are two types of tumors, those that are benign and those that are malignant. Benign tumors, non-cancerous, remain in the area in which they originated. Malignant tumors spread, often through use of the lymphatic system and blood stream, until they reach other body tissue and form secondary tumors. Leukemia is an example of a form of cancer that does not produce solid tumors. Mutated genetics of a cell permit it to perform the uncontrolled cell division and also prevent the cells from doing their intended jobs. The increasing number of mutated cells depletes the nutrients needed by the healthy cells. The mutations are caused by carcinogens, certain carcinogens are attributed to specific types of cancer. Tobacco is the carcinogen responsible for Lung Cancer.
Men who smoke increase their risk of death from lung cancer by more than 22 times and from bronchitis and emphysema by nearly 10 times. Women who smoke increase their risk of dying from lung cancer by nearly 12 times and the risk of dying from bronchitis and emphysema by more than 10 times. Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease among middle-aged men and women.**
*Statistic and Graph Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
**Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking-attributable mortality and years of potential life lost ó United States, 1990. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 1993;42(33):645-8.
Treatment for Respiratory Problems
Treatment for respiratory problems changes according the type of problem. Breathing is a necessity of life and a source for many micro-organisms to enter the body, a reservoir for infectious diseases. Many of these problems have no relief other than seeking professional medical attention. Decongestants are often taken for sinus problems, as well as humidifiers and strong smelling medication externally applied. The only assistance for asthma is having the ability to recognize the warning signs of an oncoming attack and using an inhaler. Bronchitis, emphysema, tuberculosis, SARS, lung cancer and Avian Flu will either pass on their own or require a lot of medical attention.
An individual does have the ability to increase the performance of his/her respiratory system. Exercise and physical activity allow the cardio-respiratory system to strengthen and lung capacity to increase, making your heart's job slightly easier.
Not doing things to your body is as important as doing things for your body. Drugs as a whole have a negative affect on human's bodies. Smoking cigarettes and other drugs weaken your heart and the ability of your blood to carry oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the lungs. Carbon monoxide is the worst of these inhalants as blood has a stronger affinity for this gas and will carry this before oxygen. Once inside the blood, the carbon monoxide will not be released the way normal exchange occurs, creating a suffocating effect.
When dealing with non-communicable respiratory diseases, decisions early on are the source of treatment. To cure lung cancer, do not smoke and try to not develop the disease by avoiding this major trigger. Lung cancer does arise without smoking, in those cases medical help, alternatives to medicine or chemotherapy are often needed.