Respiratory Diseases: Emphysema

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The simple act of breathing is often taken for granted. As an automated function sustaining life, most of us do not have to think about the act of breathing. However, for many others, respiratory diseases make this simple act thought consuming. Emphysema is one such disease taking away the ease, but instead inflicting labored breathing and a hope for a cure.

Healthy lung tissue is predominately soft, elastic connective tissue, designed to slide easily over the thorax with each breath. The lungs are covered with visceral pleura which glide fluidly over the parietal pleura of the thoracic cavity thanks to the serous secretion of pleural fluid (Marieb, 2006, p. 430). During inhalation, the lungs expand with air, similar to filling a balloon. The pliable latex of the balloon allows it to expand, just as the pliability of lungs and their components allows for expansion. During exhalation, the volume of air decrease causing a deflation, similar to letting air out of the balloon. However, unlike a balloon, the paired lungs are not filled with empty spaces; the bronchi enter the lungs and subdivide progressively smaller into bronchioles, a network of conducting passageways leading to the alveoli (Marieb, 2006, p. 433). Alveoli are small air sacs in the respiratory zone. The respiratory zone also consists of bronchioles and alveolar ducts, and is responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide (Marieb, 2006, p. 433).

Emphysema’s target is the lungs. The inflammation caused by emphysema damages the alveoli, or air sacs. Over time, the air sacs lose their elasticity, no longer able to expand and detract like your favorite Thanksgiving elastic waist band pants. After so many Thanksgiving dinners, the elastic fibers break, and fai...

... middle of paper ... keeps the lungs healthy and elastic, and after that, I do believe it is just up to luck. Thankfully, after 54-years of smoking, my mom stopped. Now, 14-years later, the doctors say her respiratory system is relatively healthy. This leads me to believe emphysema is not in our genetics. Additionally, no other smokers in the family have developed the disease. Mom attributes her health to always eating breakfast before smoking. There may be something to that, as she does not have smokers cough; alas, her heart was another issue.

Works Cited

Emphysema. (2009, April 29). Retrieved April 20, 2011, from Mayo Clinic:

Marieb, E. N., (2006). Essentials of human anatomy and physiology. San Francisco, CA: Benjamin Cummings.

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