Our lungs serve the vital role of absorbing oxygen from the air we breathe and releasing carbon dioxide from our blood back into the atmosphere. Our lungs also serve as a barrier to infection, help to maintain blood pressure and pH and move the air that allows us to speak. Air enters the lungs through the respiratory tract which starts at the trachea and then branches out into the two bronchii and then smaller bronchioles. These continue to divide until they reach the microscopic pockets called alveoli where the gas exchange occurs. Together, the lungs contain 1,500 miles of airways and up to 500 million alveoli, providing a huge surface area for the absorption of oxygen and release of CO2.
There are a number of conditions which can affect the lungs and airways, most of which involve a reduction in lung function or a restriction of the airways. Although smoking is still the leading cause of lung conditions, many others exist which can be caused by allergies, infections or chemical imbalances within the body. As part of the body’s natural allergic response, messenger chemicals such as “leukotrienes” or “prostaglandins” can be released by the immune system. These can cause constriction of the airways and overproduction of mucus in the lungs. Such conditions can be quite debilitating or even life threatening.
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