>> Tuesday, June 9, 2009
In this post, I hope to give you all a better understanding of what the lungs do and why they are important. If you remember my first post in my COPD series (I know, it took me a while to get to this one), I gave a brief overview of some of the diseases that this blanket term covers. By giving you a small idea of the function of the lungs, I hope to make it easier to understand future posts about how the specific diseases affect a person in different ways. Remember, click the diagram to view it in a larger format. Now, on to learning!
How We Breath
At its simplest, breathing is comprised of air entering the main windpipe- labeled the trachea on the diagram- enters the right and left main tube (stem bronchus). From here, the bronchus splits into more than 100,000 bronchioles and form more than 300 million air sacs.
Because of all of this branching and forming, the surface area of the lungs is huge. It usually averages about 100 sq yards. The air sacs themselves are quite small at only about .3mm diameter and they are covered with lots of capillaries. This small size makes the transfer of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) really efficient.
A Line of Defense
The lungs are not only our gas exchange center, but act as a line of defense against environmental factors and many diseases. The lungs will form a mucus and expel any build up or pollutants. The lungs aid in disposing of blood clots from our veins. They also get rid of gas bubbles in our blood stream. If that wasn't enough, they are believed to also act as a cushion around the heart to protect it from light physical trauma. Think of them as a cushioned helmet or knee pad for the heart. Pretty impressive!
The lungs actually flank the heart. While at first glance, the two lungs may appear symmetrical, they are not. They are actually separated into distinct lobes (think like the partitions on a fish gill) and there are three lobes on the right and two on the left. Also, the "cardiac notch" gives them each a unique shape. This is the hole that allows the heart to rest between the lungs so well. Since the heart is not symmetrical, the notches to accommodate it between the lungs are not either.
What Does This Do For Me?
In case you haven't figured out why the lungs are important yet, here is a synopsis of why:
I hope this clears things up for you all. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know in the comments.