Lungs and the Respiratory System

Lungs are very important since every cell in our body needs oxygen to function. Oxygen is inhaled into your lungs and then moves throughout your body via the bloodstream. Carbon dioxide is then expelled from your body when you breathe out.

The respiratory system also performs other vital roles in your body, such as moisturizing the air you breathe to be the right temperature and humidity level. It also acts as a filter to protect you from harmful substances through sneezing, coughing and swallowing. Let us break down what the respiratory system is and what it does.

Diagram of the Respiratory System

The nose is the main entryway for air into the body. Your nose hairs act as a filter to stop particles that should not enter your body. The mouth is an alternate entryway, especially when the nose is blocked or you are breathing heavily, like during a workout.

The sinuses, or hollow spaces located around the eyes and nose, fill with air and are responsible for regulating the temperature of the air you inhale, as well as humidity.

Inhaled air collects in your throat, which then passes through your windpipe, or trachea. The windpipe splits into 2 separate airways called bronchial tubes— one located in each lung. These 2 bronchial tubes split again into the 5 different lobes in your lungs. Openings in bronchial tubes are supported by cartilage, which is a thick tissue. The end of the tubes split further into bronchioles.

Lining the bronchial tubes are cilia, which are tiny hairs that move mucus out to your throat.

At the end of the bronchioles, there are air sacs, or alveoli. Gas exchange occurs in these tiny air sacs, and according to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, your lungs have around 150 million of them. The air sacs are elastic, so they can expand and contract, allowing them to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.

Capillaries are blood vessels located in the walls of the air sacs. Blood with carbon dioxide is pumped from the right ventricle through the pulmonary artery to the air sacs where the carbon dioxide is released into the lungs. Simultaneously, oxygen from the air within the air sacs diffuses into capillaries that are connected to the pulmonary vein which brings oxygenated blood to the left atrium of the heart to later be pumped throughout the body.

The right lung has 3 different sections called lobes, and the left lung has 2. The lobes contain sponge-like tissue, and it travels through the bronchial tubes in and out of the lobes. The pleura is a pair of membranes around each lobe and acts as a lining between your chest wall and lungs.

The diaphragm is a large muscle that separates your abdominal cavity and your chest cavity. It plays a major role in the inflation of the lungs.

Ribs are the bones protecting everything in your chest cavity. They also help the lungs with expansion and contraction.


Together, your respiratory system is responsible for your breathing without you even realizing it. Each of these smaller parts work together to make up something that is quite complex and fascinating. Staying in good health and taking care of your lungs will ensure your respiratory system functions as it should.





5 Common Myths Associated with Asthma 

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways in the lungs. Among children, asthma is a common condition however it affects people of all ages ranging from infants to the elderly.

While there are many things that can cause asthma such as genetics, environmental factors, and occupational exposures,  sometimes the exact cause cannot be determined. If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with asthma, it can be overwhelming.

Your healthcare provider can provide you with some great resources, and while the internet is a great source of information, take caution regarding some common myths associated with asthma. Read on to learn the truth to these common myths.

Myth #1: Asthmatics Should Avoid Exercise.

While many asthmatics experience exercise induced asthma, it does not mean that it should be avoided all together. This, in fact, is a myth. It is important to assess your individual risk factors and determine if your asthma is well controlled with an asthma-action plan. If your asthma is well controlled, you may enjoy activities such as a brisk walk, leisure biking, swimming, and hiking. Avoid exercising outdoors in colder weather months to avoid an asthma flare-up.

Myth #2: Asthmas Goes Away after Childhood.

While some children will experience asthma only in the early years of life, asthma does not just go away. A common misconception, but, in fact, a myth. A clear answer to this myth would be that, for some children, asthma can go into a hibernation state and never return. This is due to a person’s lungs growing and maturing and the lungs becoming less affected by triggers. Its important to know that while your asthma may not ever truly go away, your attacks can be well controlled if you are aware of your triggers.

Myth #3: No One Dies from Asthma.

This is alarmingly false. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016 there were 417,918 deaths globally due to asthma. Asthma is one of the major noncommunicable diseases, this means that asthma is not transmissible directly from one person to another. While asthma can be controlled with medication, it can cause deaths. It is important to seek treatment and not allow your symptoms to get worse. Ensure you continue your medications and asthma action plan set by your healthcare provider.

Myth #4 All You Need is Albuterol.

Albuterol sulfate is a common bronchodilator, which works by relaxing the muscles in the lungs, and makes it easier to breathe. The truth is albuterol is not the only medication available to treat asthma. Also, everyone with asthma does not take the same medication. Asthma can be treated with two types or medications: a quick-relief and long-term controller. A quick relief will control the symptoms of an asthma flare-up. A long-term medication will work by helping you have fewer and milder flare-ups.

Myth #5: Asthma is Easy to Diagnose and Treat.

The truth is asthma can be difficult to diagnose. The reason being that asthma mimics other diseases and often there are similar symptoms, making it difficult to make the diagnosis. Asthma is underdiagnosed and undertreated which creates a substantial health burden globally and to individuals and their families. If you suffer from asthma, and you have a long family history of asthma, it may be easier to diagnose. For some, a series of test may be needed to make the diagnosis.


Asthma is estimated to have affected more than 339 million people in 2016 according to WHO. It is a common condition, and it is important to have facts and understand the misconceptions and myths associated with it. Asthma can be treated and controlled so that a person can enjoy their day-to-day life!


New FDA Guidance Provides a Policy Designed to Expand the Availability of Respiratory Devices, Including Oxygen Concentrators, During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued this immediately in effect guidance: Enforcement Policy for Ventilators and Accessories and Other Respiratory Devices During the Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency.

WHITE OAK, MD  (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

The FDA believes the policy set forth in this guidance may help address urgent public health concerns by helping to expand the availability of devices that facilitate respiration, including ventilators and accessories. Learn more.

Respiratory Care Week Celebrates Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory Care Week is the last full week of October and it is designated to honor and recognize Respiratory Therapists. You may have heard the term “Respiratory Therapist” before, but do you know what Respiratory Therapists actually do?

Respiratory Therapists (RT) are certified medical professionals who specialize in providing healthcare for your lungs. There are different types of respiratory therapists, including emergency, pediatric, adult and geriatric, with RTs specializing in one or more areas.

How does one become an RT? How do you know if you need an RT? What do you look for in an RT? Read more:

What is ECMO?

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a therapy that adds oxygen to a patient’s blood and pumps it through their body. The process takes place outside the body, hence the term “extracorporeal”.

There are two types of ECMO: VA (venous-artery) and VV (venous-venous). VA ECMO is used for cardiac bypass while VV ECMO is typically used for respiratory bypass. ECMO is like a heart-lung machine that temporarily takes over the work of the heart and lungs so they can rest and heal, such as after surgery or injury, or to sustain the patient until transplant.

Find out how ECMO works, how it got started and more:

Five breathing exercises for COPD

COPD affects your ability to breathe well, with symptoms including wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. These symptoms can worsen over time, but there are breathing exercises that can help you manage them. Practicing breathing exercises regularly can help reduce your exertion during daily activities and even aid in returning to exercising. The five breathing exercises that are especially useful for people with COPD are:

-Pursed lip breathing

-Coordinated breathing

-Deep breathing

-Huff cough

-Diaphragmatic breathing

Learn how to do these exercises and how they can help people with COPD breathe easier


Does psoriasis cause COPD?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes widespread inflammation. Although it is typically associated with skin, it can affect other parts of the body, including the lungs. Researchers found that people with psoriasis have a greater risk of developing COPD compared to the general population, with the risk higher in people with severe psoriasis.

Not everyone with psoriasis will develop COPD, but there are other factors that increase the risk, such as smoking, exposure to irritants, age, genetics and certain medications.  

What other lung conditions are linked to psoriasis? What symptoms should you look out for? Learn more here.

Gender differences in COPD

Many think of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as a man’s disease. That view used to be supported by statistics, with the number of men compared to women who died from COPD reported as 5 to 1 in 1959. However, between 1968-1999, the number of women dying from COPD increased by 382% while the number of men increased by only 27%. The year 2000 was the first year that more women than men died from COPD, and this trend has continued.

COPD affects women differently than men, with women more likely to experience more severe shortness of breath, more anxiety and depression, lower quality of life and increased airway hyperresponsiveness.

Why does COPD affect men and women differently? What are some of the treatment considerations? Find out here. 

Six lifestyle changes to help manage COPD

People with COPD often feel that they can no longer live the life they’re used to. However, by making a few lifestyle changes people with COPD can enjoy fulfilling lifestyles while managing their disease:

  1. Stop smoking – this is a top priority to help manage your COPD. Your doctor can help you select the best program, strategy or product to help you quit.
  2. Avoid infections – people with COPD are at a higher risk for respiratory infections which can cause COPD flare-ups. Be sure to wash your hands often with soap and water and carry a hand sanitizer with you. Try to avoid contact with people who are sick with a cold or flu and talk to your doctor about vaccines.
  3. Eat right – healthy nutritious foods can help strengthen your body and immune system. Try to eat more vegetables, fish, nuts and whole grains. Your doctor can recommend a nutrition plan that best fits your needs and lifestyle.
  4. Be prepared for emergencies – learn to recognize the signs of a flare-up and keep your doctor’s contact information handy. Put together a list of friends or family members that can help in case you need to go to a medical facility.
  5. Tend to your emotional needs – if you are experiencing anxiety, stress or depression, talk to your doctor – they can help manage your emotional needs with a variety of approaches, from joining a support group to therapy to medication.
  6. Stay active – regular exercise helps improve physical and emotional condition and reduce shortness of breath for people with COPD. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program and they will be able to recommend the best fitness plan for your needs and lifestyle.

Learn more about living with COPD and managing your symptoms.

Dusty workplace may increase the risk of COPD

More than one in ten people with a range of non-cancerous lung diseases may be sick due to breathing in dust and fumes at work, according to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study estimates the occupational burden of COPD at 14 percent, and notes that the role of occupational factors in most lung disease is under-recognized.



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