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Respiratory Diseases: Emphysema Essay

795 words - 3 pages

The simple act of breathing is often taken for granted. As an automated function sustaining life, most of us do not have to think about the act of breathing. However, for many others, respiratory diseases make this simple act thought consuming. Emphysema is one such disease taking away the ease, but instead inflicting labored breathing and a hope for a cure.
Healthy lung tissue is predominately soft, elastic connective tissue, designed to slide easily over the thorax with each breath. The lungs are covered with visceral pleura which glide fluidly over the parietal pleura of the thoracic cavity thanks to the serous secretion of pleural fluid (Marieb, 2006, p. 430). During inhalation, the lungs expand with air, similar to filling a balloon. The pliable latex of the balloon allows it to expand, just as the pliability of lungs and their components allows for expansion. During exhalation, the volume of air decrease causing a deflation, similar to letting air out of the balloon. However, unlike a balloon, the paired lungs are not filled with empty spaces; the bronchi enter the lungs and subdivide progressively smaller into bronchioles, a network of conducting passageways leading to the alveoli (Marieb, 2006, p. 433). Alveoli are small air sacs in the respiratory zone. The respiratory zone also consists of bronchioles and alveolar ducts, and is responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide (Marieb, 2006, p. 433).
Emphysema’s target is the lungs. The inflammation caused by emphysema damages the alveoli, or air sacs. Over time, the air sacs lose their elasticity, no longer able to expand and detract like your favorite Thanksgiving elastic waist band pants. After so many Thanksgiving dinners, the elastic fibers break, and fail to expand, ultimately caving in. Unfortunately for the lungs, this similar loss of elasticity and collapse greatly reduces the ability to expel air. Sufferers are required to use energy reserves leaving them quite tired. When emphysema attacks, the respiratory system goes out of homeostasis due the systems inability to efficiently exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as exhausting the energy reserves of the sufferer. A healthy respiratory system refreshes and energizes a body, efficiently pumping in oxygen and expelling carbon...

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