The lungs are major organs of the respiratory system. Learn more about their anatomy, how they function in the body, and how to keep them healthy. The lungs are an essential part of the respiratory system. The respiratory system facilitates breathing and has two parts: the upper respiratory tract, which includes the airways like the nose, mouth, sinuses, and windpipe (trachea), and the
The lungs are an essential part of the respiratory system. The respiratory system facilitates breathing and has two parts: the upper respiratory tract, which includes the airways like the nose, mouth, sinuses, and windpipe (trachea), and the lower respiratory tract, which consists of the lungs and bronchial tubes.
The lungs’ main role is to deliver oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide from the blood. Air enters the nose or mouth and passes through your windpipe and into the bronchial tubes when you breathe in. The bronchial tubes lead into the lungs and branch out into smaller tubes known as bronchioles, which end in small air sacs known as alveoli.
The alveoli are surrounded by capillaries (small blood vessels) that carry oxygen-low blood through them. Oxygen from the air in the alveoli flows into the blood, and carbon dioxide moves out of the blood and into the alveoli.
The carbon dioxide flows from the alveoli and back up through the respiratory system, where it is exhaled out of the mouth or nose.
In this article, you will learn about lung anatomy, how lungs function, and how to keep them healthy.
Though both lungs are similar in makeup, they are asymmetrical. The left lung is slightly smaller than the right lung to accommodate the heart. The right lung has three lobes—the right upper lobe, the right middle lobe, and the right lower lobe. The left lung has an upper and lower lobe.
The lungs are wrapped in pleura, a two-layer membrane. Fluid between the layers helps reduce friction when breathing.
Both lungs have a pulmonary artery, bronchial arteries, and pulmonary veins that carry blood in and out of the lungs.
The alveoli inside the lungs are small thin sacs that allow for an exchange of gases, bringing oxygen into the blood and carbon dioxide out of the blood.
Muscles around the lungs aid in breathing. These muscles include the diaphragm, a disk-shaped muscle that sits under the lungs, and the intercostal muscles that run between the ribs. Muscles in the neck and mouth also help with breathing.
Though it is possible to control your breathing—you can take a deep breath, a shallow breath, or even hold your breath for a short period—most breathing happens without thought.
The autonomic nervous system controls breath and works involuntarily. The system senses when you need more oxygen, such as when exercising, and makes adjustments.
The autonomic nervous system has two divisions that have different functions in breathing, which are:
To help these systems, there are various sensors throughout the body to signal the body to adjust breathing rate:
A lung function test can determine the health of the lungs. These tests show how well the lungs work and can include:
There are various respiratory diseases that can affect the lungs and reduce their ability to function. These diseases include:
Taking good care of your overall health, such as by doing the following, can help maintain lung health as well:
The lungs play an important part in the respiratory system. Their main function is to provide oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide from the blood. Various diseases can affect the lungs, including asthma, infections, COPD, and cancer. Keep the lungs healthy by avoiding pollutants, getting regular exercise, and ceasing smoking.
The lungs are a vital part of your health. When they are working as they should they will provide the oxygen you need to enjoy life with energy and vigor. If you have difficulty breathing or any symptoms related to lung disease, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider right away.
Some of the first signs of lung problems are shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and tiredness.
The lungs provide oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide from the blood.
Taking care of your overall health can help you take care of your lungs. Exercise regularly, get routine checkups and avoid inhaling pollutants that can damage your lungs.