Breathing and Diseases of Lungs and Airways

June 28, 2009

Bronchitis and Its Symptoms

One of the most common breathing diseases is bronchitis. Bronchitis is a disease of the air passages.

In this disease too much mucus is produced in the air passages, and the walls become inflamed. The ciliated cells are gradually destroyed, and so the only way to move the mucus up to the mouth is by coughing. The extra mucus and the inflamed walls both make the air passages narrower. This obviously makes breathing more difficult.

Common symptoms of bronchitis are wheezing and a tight feeling in the chest, especially in the morning. This causes great discomfort and distress. Chronic bronchitis seems to be caused by breathing air containing dust, smoke of various kinds or other fumes for several years.

The disease is more common in towns than it is in country districts. It is also more common in smokers than in non-smokers. About 95 people out of every 100 with chronic bronchitis are smokers.

Walls of Air Passages and our Health

Air contains the oxygen which we need. It also holds a lot of other things. Some of these can be dangerous, for example, dust, smoke and harmful bacteria. The amount and type of dust in the air varies a great deal. Some types of dust are more harmful than others. In healthy people the bacteria and larger dust particles all get trapped in the upper air passages. They are therefore prevented from reaching the lungs where they might cause infection, irritation or inflammation. The inner surface of all the air passages (nose, trachea, bronchi etc) is covered by special cells of two main types. These are goblet cells, which produce mucus, and ciliated cells, which have tiny hairs called cilia on them.

Mucus is a thick sticky liquid. The cilia move up and down all the time. Dust particles in the air are trapped by the sticky mucus. The cilia carry the mucus up towards the mouth. Coughing also helps. When the mucus gets to the mouth it is swallowed and eventually passes out of the body.

Good health depends partly on a healthy breathing system. The goblet cells and cilia have a very important part to play in making sure that the breathing system stays healthy.