Common Diseases in the Respiratory System

Published on 17th December 2018

The Respiratory System is a module in the ITEC Anatomy and Physiology course we provide as an E-Course. 



Your bronchii and bronchioles (airways) carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, they are very sensitive and can become inflamed and can tighten when they inhale anything that irritates them. This can cause chest tightness and wheezing and make it harder to breathe.  Certain things like dust can trigger the muscles around your bronchii to tighten, making them narrower. The bronchii lining also becomes inflamed causing a build-up of sputum. This makes your bronchii even narrower. With narrow bronchii, it’s harder to get air in and out of your lungs. Asthma often runs in families and people who have allergies – especially children are at a higher risk.

Some people can develop asthma by repeatedly breathing in certain substances, especially while they’re at work, for example when they’re paint spraying, baking and welding.

There are different types of asthma. Asthma associated with allergy usually starts in children. But some people develop asthma as adults and this is often not associated with allergic triggers.



Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the alveoli (air sacs) in one or both lungs.  A variety of organisms,(microscopic living elements)  including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia.The alveoli within the lungs may fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), causing a cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.

Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. It is most serious for infants and young children, people older than age 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems.

The signs and symptoms of pneumonia vary from mild to severe, depending on factors such as the type of organism causing the infection, the patients age and state of health. Mild signs and symptoms often are similar to those of a cold or flu, but they will last longer.

Signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include: Chest pain when you breathe or cough, Confusion or changes in mental awareness (in adults age 65 and older), Cough, which may produce phlegm, Fatigue, Fever, sweating and shaking chills, Lower than normal body temperature (in adults older than age 65 and people with weak immune systems), Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, Shortness of breath.

Newborn babies and infants may not show any sign of the infection. Or they may vomit, have a fever and cough, appear restless or tired and without energy, or have difficulty breathing and eating.


Lung Cancer

Roy castle the well known musician and television entertainer started his life in smoke filled clubs and later died of lung cancer. His cancer is attributed to his early smoke filled life at work.

Around 15 of every 100 people with lung cancer have small cell lung cancer.

This type of lung cancer is made up of small round cells that form fleshy lumps and usually start in the larger airways. In small cell lung cancer the cells reproduce and grow very quickly. It can also spread to the lymph nodes and/or other organs in the body. Small cell lung cancer is generally more responsive to chemotherapy treatment than other treatments. However radiotherapy may also be used. In rare cases this type of lung cancer can be surgically removed. There are a variety of other cancers that can affect the lungs but most of them are rare. Mesothelioma, pancoast and carcinoid tumours are three of the more common types.


You can find more information on the respiratory system here


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