Your lungs are part of the respiratory system. The main job of the
lungs and the respiratory system is to give your body oxygen and move waste
products, such as carbon dioxide, out of your body. This happens when you
breathe. This process is called respiration.
When you breathe in, air enters your lungs. Your lungs move oxygen
from the air into your bloodstream. The bloodstream carries the oxygen to every
cell in your body. It also picks up carbon dioxide from the cells and carries
it back to the lungs. When you breathe out, you push the carbon dioxide out of
your lungs and your body.
Breathing is automatic. Your
body adjusts when you need more or less oxygen. There are sensors in your brain
that know when you need more oxygen or less carbon dioxide in your blood and
cause you to breathe harder.
Your lungs do more than move oxygen
in and carbon dioxide out of the body. They also act as filters. Mucus in your
lungs catches and holds dust, germs, and other things that have entered the
lungs. When you cough, sneeze, or clear your throat, you move this material out
of your body.
lungs are different from many other organs because they are in contact with the
outside world. You may breathe in dust, pollen, viruses, bacteria, cigarette
smoke, air pollution, and exhaust fumes. Anything you breathe in can harm how
well your lungs work and can make breathing harder and a lung problem more
If you have a lung disease, what you breathe in can
suddenly make symptoms worse. For example, breathing in cigarette smoke can
cause an asthma attack or a COPD flare-up.
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter D566 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About How the Lungs Work."
Current as of:
May 23, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
© 2006-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.