Having survived long enough to become seniors, we fully realize that every breath we take is a real treasure!
Breathing is a necessary function of human life. If we lose that function, our lives can suddenly be measured in minutes. It also follows that any condition that compromises the ability to breathe should require our immediate attention.
Diseases of the lung are some of the most common diseases in the world. In the US alone, tens of millions of people suffer from lung disease. The greatest causes of lung disease are smoking, infections, and genes, in that order.
Our lungs are part of a very complex system, expanding and relaxing thousands of times every day to bring in oxygen and send out carbon dioxide. Problems in any part of this system can promote lung disease.
Our windpipe (trachea) branches into smaller tubes called bronchi, which in turn branch into still smaller tubes throughout our lungs. Diseases that can affect these airways can include:
Then there are lung diseases that affect the Air Sacs (Alveoli). Our airways branch into tiny tubes (bronchioles) that end in clusters of air sacs called alveoli (see picture above). These air sacs make up most of our lung tissue. These diseases include:
Pneumoconiosis. A category of conditions caused by breathing something that injures the lungs. Examples include black lung disease from coal dust in mining operations or asbestosis from asbestos dust.
Now, let’s talk about lung diseases that affect the interstitium. The interstitium is the thin, delicate lining between our alveoli (again, see the picture at top of the page). Tiny blood vessels run between the interstitium and allow gas transfer between the alveoli and our blood. Lung diseases that affect the interstitium include:
On to lung diseases that affect our blood vessels. The right side of our heart receive low oxygen from our veins. The heart pumps blood into the lungs through the pulmonary arteries. These blood vessels can also have diseases.
Lung diseases affecting the pleura. The pleura is a thin lining that surrounds our lungs and lines the inside of our chest wall. A tiny layer of fluid allows the fluid on our lungs surface to slide along the chest wall with each breath. Diseases of the pleura include:
As we have seen above, there are plenty of threats to our health, many of which pose great risks and expenses. Thankfully, we have missed many of them and are now grateful to have qualified to be seniors and, hopefully, enjoying reasonably good health.
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