We explain what the respiratory system is and its different functions. In addition, the organs that compose it and its diseases.
What is the respiratory system?
It is known as respiratory system or respiratory system to all the organs and ducts of the body of living beings that allow them to exchange gases with the environment where they are. In that sense, the structure of this system and its mechanisms can vary greatly depending on the habitat in which you live.
The name of the system comes from the fact that it allows breathing: the entry of air into the body of animals, from which oxygen is extracted, and the subsequent expulsion of carbon dioxide (CO2) whose presence in the organism would be harmful.
In this sense, the respiratory system is complemented with the circulatory system , since the latter carries oxygen in the blood to the ends of the body and returns CO2 to the lungs to prevent it from modifying the body’s pH . Breathing consists of two stages: inhalation (air inlet) and exhalation (air outlet).
Unlike humans , certain animals have respiratory systems that do not involve lungs , but gills to breathe underwater or skin breathing mechanisms (through the skin).
Functions of the respiratory system
The elementary function of the respiratory system is, as the name implies, breathing or ventilation. This is, as we explained before, the entry into the body of a volume of air from the atmosphere , from which oxygen will be passively extracted, an essential element for the oxidation of glucose that gives energy to our body. And at the same time, the system allows the expulsion of carbon dioxide resulting from said process.
Bodies of the respiratory system
The respiratory system of the human being is composed of the following parts:
- Nostrils . The holes in the nose, where everything starts. Through them the air penetrates, filtered by a series of villi and mucous membranes that prevent access to solid waste and other non-gaseous elements.
- Pharynx . The connection between the nostrils, the oral cavity and the esophagus and the larynx, contains defensive mucous membranes and is located in the neck.
- Larynx . Duct that connects the pharynx with the trachea and lungs, and in which are both the vocal cords, as the glottis (bell) and a series of muscles that in case of obstruction act by reflex clearing the path.
- Windpipe . The final stretch of the duct, which connects the larynx and lungs. It has a set of C-shaped cartilages that keep the duct open to external compression.
- Lungs . The main organs of respiration are two large sacs that are filled with air and allow the gaseous exchange between air and blood. To do this, they have bronchi (air ducts to the bronchioles), bronchioles (narrower ducts between the bronchi and the alveoli) and finally, the pulmonary alveoli (even narrower ducts, with a single-celled wall, which allows oxygen to pass through the blood).
- Intercostal muscles . A series of muscles in the chest that mobilize it during breathing.
- Diaphragm . The muscle that separates the abdomen from the thorax is responsible for inhalation and exhalation: it contracts and falls, expanding the rib cage. Then he relaxes and climbs, compressing the lathe and throwing out the air.
- Pleura . A serous membrane that covers the two lungs and that maintains a cavity between its two layers (internal and external), whose pressure is lower than that of the atmosphere, to allow the expansion of the lungs during inhalation.
Diseases of the respiratory system
The respiratory system is susceptible to diseases such as
- Cancer . Due to the recurring presence of toxic gases dissolved in the atmosphere in the lungs, when not from the smoke inhaled by smokers (and those around them), it is possible to develop malignant tumors in the lungs.
- Colds . The most common disease of the respiratory tract, is due to the presence of viruses in the upper (external) stages of the system, so they are fought by the mucous membranes through sneezing, secretions, fever, etc.
- Infections . The presence of bacteria in the respiratory tract, either in the upper stages (pharyngitis, laryngitis) or in the lungs (pneumonia or pneumonia) usually requires treatment with antibiotics and rest, as it causes fatigue and decreased breathing efficiency.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) . Very common among smokers and mining workers, it is a disease in which the alveolar ducts of the lungs are progressively obstructed and usually irreversible, leading to a loss of respiratory capacity and dramatically shortening life.