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Respiratory System Diseases

Discusses different respiratory diseases, their causes and treatments.

Atoms Practice
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Respiratory System Diseases

Does making ATP start with the lungs?

The importance of a nice pair of healthy lungs is obvious. We all need oxygen to get into our lungs, so the oxygen can be transferred to the blood, so it can be transported around our body, so each cell can receive its fair share of oxygen, allowing oxygen to serve as the final electron acceptor during the electron transport chain of cellular respiration, allowing the cell to produce lots of ATP. And it all starts with the lungs.

Diseases of the Respiratory System

When you have a cold, your nasal passages may become so congested that it’s hard to breathe through your nose. Many other diseases also affect the respiratory system, most of them more serious than the common cold. The following list includes just a sample of respiratory system diseases.

  • Asthma is a disease in which the air passages of the lungs periodically become too narrow, often with excessive mucus production. This causes difficulty breathing, coughing, and chest tightness. An asthma attack may be triggered by allergens, strenuous exercise, stress, or other factors.

You can learn more about asthma by watching the animation at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S04dci7NTPk&feature=reated .

  • Pneumonia is a disease in which some of the alveoli of the lungs fill with fluid so gas exchange cannot occur. Symptoms usually include coughing, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Pneumonia may be caused by an infection or injury of the lungs.
  • Emphysema is a lung disease in which walls of the alveoli break down so less gas can be exchanged in the lungs (see Figure below ). This causes shortness of breath. The damage to the alveoli is usually caused by smoking and is irreversible.

Pneumonia and emphysema are caused by damage to the alveoli of the lungs.


  • Diseases of the respiratory system include asthma, pneumonia, and emphysema.

Practice I

Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

  1. Describe the following lung diseases:
    1. asthma
    2. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
    3. pneumonia
    4. tuberculosis

Practice II


1. Identify three diseases of the respiratory system, and state what triggers or causes each disease.




Respiratory system disease in which air passages of the lungs periodically become too narrow, making breathing difficult.


Lung disease, usually caused by smoking, in which walls of alveoli break down, so less gas can be exchanged in the lungs.


Disease in which the alveoli of the lungs become inflamed and filled with fluid as a result of infection or injury.

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