Disorders of the Respiratory System

The respiratory system is the bodily system that is responsible for gas exchange. The major organs within the respiratory system are the lungs, which are susceptible to diseases and illnesses for example, lung cancer, emphysema, asthma and pneumonia.

Lung cancer is caused by overactive cells in the lungs forming a tumour and is one of the most common types of cancer. It is mainly caused by smoking or passive smoking, but exposure to coal dust and asbestos can also be a contributing factor. The most common symptom of lung cancer is a persistent cough and is often followed by chest pains and sudden weight loss. Lung cancer can be treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and in some cases, surgery to remove the lung.

Emphysema is mainly caused by smoking and also passive smoking. Exposure to high amounts of dust and pollution can also result in this condition. The main symptoms of emphysema are difficulty breathing, persistent cough and the presence of phlegm. The disease and its symptoms build up gradually over a number of years. Basic treatments include inhalers, antibiotics, steroids and nebulisers, but more long term treatments may be necessary. The more long term treatments include lung transplant or lung volume reduction surgery.

Asthma is a common condition that causes the airways of the lungs to become inflamed, which then causes the airways to become swollen. It is thought to be a genetic disorder, but can also be affected by poor diet and the environment. At present there is no cure, but can be managed successfully with the use of an inhaler and in more serious cases, steroid tablets.

Pneumonia means an infection of the alveoli. It is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection, which causes inflammation of one or both lungs. It is normally treated with antibiotics and pain killers and the patient is told to rest. It is highly advisable for patients to be vaccinated, to prevent a recurrence of pneumonia. It is also recommended that people in...