How Your Lungs Work: The ABCs of Breathing

Blog Post created by Thomas3.20.2010 on Mar 21, 2013

If you have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it's
important to understand how the lungs work and to know what happens when
these diseases affect the lungs.

When you inhale, air travels down the back of your throat (pharynx), passes
through your voice box (larynx) and goes into your windpipe (trachea). The
trachea is divided into two air passages (mainstem bronchi); one leads to
the left lung, and one to the right lung. The diaphragm, a dome-shaped
muscle, lies below the lungs. It flattens to draw air in as you inhale and
rises when you exhale.

The right lung has three sections, called lobes, and is slightly larger than
the left lung, which has two lobes. The mainstem bronchi divide into smaller
air passages called bronchioles. At the end of the bronchioles are tiny air
sacs called alveoli, where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged.

After absorbing oxygen, the blood flows from the lungs to the heart. It is
then pumped through the body, providing oxygen to the cells of the tissues
and organs. When the cells use the oxygen, carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced
and transferred to the blood. The blood carries the CO2 back to the lungs,
where it is removed when you exhale.

Your lungs are protected from harmful substances in a number of ways. The
hair in the nose helps filter out large particles, and cilia (microscopic
hairlike projections on cells that line the nose and larger airways of the
lung) continually sweep back and forth to keep the air passages clear. Mucus
produced by the trachea and bronchial tubes helps trap dust, bacteria and
other foreign substances before they can enter the lungs. Normally, the
airways are open and free from inflammation and excess mucus.

In asthma, the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and swollen. The
lining can make extra mucus, which clogs the airways. The muscles around the
airways tighten, making the airways even narrower. Sometimes the airways can
become so narrow that air has trouble getting in and out of the lungs,
resulting in an asthma attack.
In chronic bronchitis, the lining of the bronchioles becomes inflamed and
produces too much mucus. In some people, the swelling and excess mucus
narrow the airways and restrict airflow in and out of the lungs, causing
shortness of breath. The cilia also are damaged, preventing them from
removing the excess mucus.
In emphysema, the walls of the alveoli lose their elasticity and become
enlarged. As they get bigger, the diaphragm flattens, making it harder for
the lungs to move air in and out. The bronchioles also become less elastic
and become narrow or collapse upon exhalation. As a result, CO2 gets trapped
in the airways and prevents oxygen from getting to the blood.

This fell into my inbox and I just wanted to post it for those with breathing problems. If you have these diseases then PLEASE DON'T SMOKE! YOU ARE KILLING YOURSELF (100%!)