Table of contents:
- Organs of the respiratory system
- Functions of the respiratory system
- Major diseases of the respiratory system
- When to go to the doctor
The respiratory system is a set of organs responsible for transporting air into the lungs and then expelling it to the outside, allowing breathing, speech and the perception of odors.
The main purpose of respiration is to bring oxygen to every cell in the body and eliminate carbon dioxide, which is the result of the oxygen used by the cells. For this to occur, there is inspiration or inhalation, which is when air enters the lungs, and expiration or exhalation, which is when air leaves the lungs. Although this process happens all the time, there are many agencies involved.
Organs of the respiratory system
According to anatomy, the organs responsible for breathing are:
- Noses: are responsible for filtering air particles, regulating the temperature at which the air reaches the lungs, and detecting odors and the presence of viruses or bacteria. Upon perceiving the presence of these microorganisms, the body's defense system is activated;
- Pharynx, larynx and trachea: after passing through the nasal passages, the air is carried towards the pharynx and larynx, where the vocal cords are, and then towards the to the trachea, which divides in 2, until it reaches the right and left lungs. The trachea is a tube that contains cartilaginous rings throughout its structure, which act in a protective way, preventing it from closing when the person turns the neck to the side, for example;
- Bronchi: after the trachea, the air reaches the bronchi which are two structures, similar to a tree turned upside down, and that is why it is also called the bronchial tree.The bronchi are further subdivided into smaller pathways, which are the bronchioles, which are full of small cilia and produce mucus (phlegm) that serves to eliminate microorganisms;
- Alveoli: the last structure of the respiratory system are the alveoli, which are directly connected to blood vessels. Here, the oxygen passes into the blood, where it can reach every cell in the body. This process is called gas exchange, because in addition to bringing oxygen to the blood, the alveolus removes the carbon dioxide present in the blood. Oxygen-rich blood circulates through the arteries, while carbon dioxide-rich blood circulates through the veins. When exhaling, all carbon dioxide is eliminated.
To help with breathing movement, there are also the respiratory muscles (intercostals) and the diaphragm.
Functions of the respiratory system
The main function of the respiratory system is to carry out respiration, which is what makes it possible to transport oxygen to all the cells of the body and eliminate carbon dioxide, which is the result of the oxygen used by the cells.
Breathing occurs innately, from birth, without the need to learn how to do it, as it is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. For this process to happen, the person breathes in atmospheric air, which passes through the nostrils, crosses the pharynx, larynx and trachea and reaches the lungs, where it flows through the bronchi, bronchioles, until finally reaching the alveoli, where oxygen passes directly to the blood. Breathing can be divided into two main stages, which take place as follows:
- Inspiration: the respiratory muscles located between the ribs contract and the diaphragm descends, increasing the space for the lungs to fill with air, which causes pressure internal decrease;
- Expiration: Respiratory muscles and diaphragm relax, diaphragm rises, rib cage volume decreases, internal pressure increases, and air leaves the lungs.
Shortness of breath occurs when there is some change in the respiratory system, which prevents the entry or exit of air and therefore makes gas exchange ineffective, which in turn causes the blood to have more dioxide of carbon than oxygen.
In addition, the respiratory system also has other important functions. For example, when passing through the nose, it passes through some sensory receptors located in the nasal mucosa that provide the sense of smell, with which we can perceive more than 10,000 different smells. On the other hand, when the air we expel from the lungs passes through the larynx and vocal cords, sounds are emitted that allow us to speak and communicate with other people.
Major diseases of the respiratory system
Some examples of common diseases of the respiratory system are:
1. Flu or cold
The flu and cold happen when viruses enter the respiratory system.In a cold, the virus is only in the nasal passages and can reach the pharynx, causing nasal congestion and discomfort. In the case of the flu, the virus can reach the lungs with fever and a lot of phlegm in the chest. Learn what they are and how to treat flu symptoms
Asthma occurs in periods when the person has a decrease in the bronchi or bronchioles, with a small production of mucus, causing the air to pass more difficultly through these structures and the person emits a high-pitched sound with each inspiration.
Bronchitis causes contraction and inflammation of the bronchi and bronchioles. The result of this inflammation is the production of mucus, which can be expelled in the form of phlegm, but which can also be swallowed when it reaches the pharynx, being directed towards the stomach.
Allergy happens when the person's immune system is very reactive and understands that certain substances present in the air are very harmful to he alth, causing warning signs whenever the person is exposed to dust, perfumes or pollen, for example..
Pneumonia is usually caused by the entry of viruses or bacteria, but it can also happen due to the presence of foreign objects, food debris or vomit inside the lungs, causing fever and difficulty breathing. A flu can get worse and cause pneumonia, but a cold doesn't have that possibility. Check out all the signs and symptoms of pneumonia
Tuberculosis occurs when bacteria enter the lungs through the airways, causing fever, coughing up a lot of phlegm, and sometimes blood. This disease is very contagious and passes through the air through contact with the secretions of the sick individual. Treatment is extremely important because the bacillus can get into the blood and spread throughout the body, causing tuberculosis outside the lungs.
When to go to the doctor
Whenever there are symptoms such as difficulty breathing, wheezing when breathing in, fever, coughing up phlegm or blood, it is important to seek medical help to evaluate the respiratory system and identify if there is any disease that is causing these symptoms, starting the most appropriate treatment.
Which doctor treats respiratory diseases?
In the case of more common symptoms such as flu or cold, an appointment with a general practitioner can be made. This doctor can listen to the lungs, check for fever, and look for other signs and symptoms characteristic of respiratory illness.
In the case of chronic diseases, such as asthma or bronchitis, it may be advisable to seek help from a doctor specializing in pulmonology, because he is more used to treating patients with this type of disease, having greater training to guide the treatment and the follow-up throughout the person's life.