What is the respiratory system?
We explain what the respiratory system is and its different functions. In addition, the organs that compose it and their diseases.
The respiratory system exchanges gases with the environment.
The set of organs and conduits of the body of living beings that allow them to exchange gases with the environment in which they are found is known as the respiratory apparatus or respiratory system.
In that sense, the structure of this system and its mechanisms can vary greatly depending on the habitat in which it lives.
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 body would be harmful.
In this sense, the respiratory system is complemented by the circulatory system, since the latter carries oxygen in the blood to the confines 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 for breathing under water or skin breathing mechanisms (through the skin).
Functions of the respiratory system
The respiratory system allows the expulsion of carbon dioxide.
The elementary function of the respiratory system is, as its 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 indispensable element for the oxidation of the glucose that gives energy to our organism.
And at the same time, the system allows the expulsion of the carbon dioxide resulting from that process.
Organs of the respiratory system
The larynx connects the pharynx to the trachea and lungs.
The human respiratory system consists of the following parts:
- Nasal nostrils. The holes in the nose, where everything starts. Through them the air penetrates, filtered through a series of villi and mucous membranes that prevent access to solid waste and other non-gaseous elements.
- Pharynx. The connection between the nostrils, buccal cavity and esophagus and larynx contains defensive mucosa and is located in the neck.
- Larynx. A conduit that connects the pharynx with the trachea and lungs, and in which the vocal cords, as well as the glottis (bell) and a series of muscles that in case of obstruction act by reflex, clearing the way.
- Trachea. The final stretch of the duct, which connects the larynx and lungs. It has a set of C-shaped cartilages that hold the duct open to external compression.
- Lungs. The main organs of respiration are two large sacs that fill with air and allow the gaseous exchange between air and blood. For this purpose, they have bronchi (tubes for air to the bronchioles), bronchioles (narrower tubes between the bronchi and the alveoli) and finally, the pulmonary alveoli (even narrower tubes, with a unicellular wall that allows oxygen to pass into the blood).
- Intercostal muscles. A series of muscles in the chest that move you during breathing.
- Diaphragm. The muscle that separates the abdomen from the thorax is responsible for the inhalation and exhalation: it contracts and goes down, enlarging the thoracic cage. Then he relaxes and climbs up, compressing the lathe and throwing out the air.
- Pleura. A serous membrane that covers the two lungs and maintains a cavity between their two layers (internal and external), whose pressure is lower than that of the atmosphere, to allow the lungs to expand during inhalation.
Diseases of the respiratory system
Lung cancer is very common in smokers.
The respiratory system is susceptible to diseases such as
- Cancer Due to the recurrent presence of toxic gases dissolved in the atmosphere in the lungs, when not from 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, and so on.
- Infections. The presence of bacteria in the respiratory tract, either in the upper stages (pharyngitis, laryngitis) or in the lungs (pneumonia or pneumonia) often requires treatment with antibiotics and rest, as it causes fatigue and decreased efficiency of breathing.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Very common among smokers and mining workers, it is a disease in which the alveolar tubes of the lungs become progressively blocked and generally irreversible, leading to a loss of respiratory capacity and drastically shortening life.