Your Lungs and Your Pleura, How They Impact Your Health
Your lungs are significant organs in your body's respiratory system. They support most of the other body systems by providing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide and other body wastes from the body.
Did you know that your lungs are as large as a tennis court?
According to various reliable sources, both of your lungs, when open and spread on the ground, can reach a surface area equaling a tennis court. Also, if you can join the airways of both lungs, they can cover a length of about 2414 kilometers or 1,500 miles.
Despite the size of your lungs, if spread out, they are as light as a balloon filled with air.
An average man can use 750 cubic centimeters of air in an average inhalation while at rest. An ordinary woman uses about 285 cubic air in normal breath while at rest.
Your two lungs lie between the collarbone and the diaphragm. You use your lungs for breathing in oxygen and exhaling out carbon dioxide as waste gas. The two cone-shaped organs have a sponge-like texture.
The bronchi connect the lungs to the trachea on the upper side, and the diaphragm acts as the base. The two lungs border the ribs on the costal side of each lung.
Both lungs are not of the same size. Your right lung is shorter and broader of the two. It creates space for the liver, which is located above the lung and under the rib case. Your left lung is smaller because of the area for the heart.
Lungs have fissures that segment them into lobes. Your lung on the right has three lobes, which are the superior, middle, and inferior. The left lung, which curves into a cardiac notch at the lower mediastinal surface has two segments of lobes, the superior and the inferior. They connect by an elastic bronchopulmonary connective tissue.
Your lungs are made of millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli, specialized cells, and tissues.
Some hair-like projections known as cilia and epithelial cells make up the lining inside your lungs. The tiny hairs inside your lungs are useful in preventing particles and other organisms from entering your lungs by trapping such intruders.
Some of the functions of the epithelial cells are to help in the production of surfactant and mucus, clearing particulate, balancing fluid in the body, and initiating immune responses.
The air you breathe in gets into your lungs by passing through the windpipe (trachea) to the bronchi (tubular channels). The bronchi then branch out just like tree branches into smaller bronchi.
The small bronchi then branch off to form other more tiny bronchi, which are called bronchioles. The bronchioles then join to alveoli clusters, the microscopic air sacs. The alveoli are essential parts of the lungs' functions.
Pulmonary lobules connect the bronchi and the bronchioles. The connections have walls made of connective tissues called interlobular septum walls.Functions of the Lungs
The significant role of the lungs in the respiratory system is respiration.
Respiration is the process where the two leading gases in your body exchange. As your breath in and out, the alveoli fill in with oxygen and exchange it with the removal of carbon dioxide, a process called gas exchange.
The alveoli exchange gases by delivering oxygen to the bloodstream and receiving deoxygenated gas, carbon dioxide from the blood for discharge. The exchange causes your lungs to expand and shrink.
Other lungs' functions outside the respiratory system are:pH Balance
Your lungs control pH levels by balancing carbon dioxide in your body. Excess carbon dioxide or the inability to exhale sufficient carbon dioxide can cause high levels of acid in the blood. In the case of high acidic blood, your lungs should increase the ventilation rate to discharge more carbon dioxide. Such an action would balance the pH level.Speech Formation
The lungs have a significant role in speech formation. The vocal cords require some airflow or air movement to create vocal sounds.Filtration
You risk having blood clots or air bubbles in your blood when your lungs fail to function efficiently. Other than respiration, your lungs can also lyse or breakdown blood clots using the fibrinolytic system.Heart Protection
Your lungs can act as airbags or shock absorber to your heart against injury from a severe impact.
The plural of pleura is pleurae. Pleura consists of some fluid that creates surface tension for the lungs to contract and expand smoothly over other organs. Each lung has two separate pleurae. In case one lung injures its pleura, the other one can remain intact.
The Pleurae are part of the serous membrane that covers the lungs. The mediastinum separates the pleurae on both lungs. Each pleura has two layers that cushion and protect your lungs.
One layer attaches tightly to the lungs on the inside to form the inner lining of the lungs. The other one covers the outer part of the lungs.
The two layers continue with one another up to where they connect at the hilum. The space between the two pleurae is known as the pleural cavity.Pleural Cavity
The pleural cavity or pleural space is a fluid-filled thin space that lies between the two pulmonary pleurae, which are parietal and visceral pleura on each lung. The pleural cavity helps in the functions of the lungs when breathing.
The fluid in the pleural cavity lubricates pleurae to enable a smooth sliding against each other when the lungs expand and shrink during the breathing process.
The pleural cavity contains intrapleural pressure outside the lungs that holds the lungs from over-expanding by creating a vacuum. The inside intrapleural pressure prevents the lungs from collapsing or over shrinking.Visceral Pleura
The inner pleura is called visceral pleura, and it is the covering of the lung's inner part. It lines the inner part of the lungs, and it is also the tissue that connects the lobes. The visceral pleura then adjoins the lungs' structures such as the nerves, bronchi, and the blood vessels.Parietal Pleura
The peripheral or outer pleura is called parietal pleura. It covers the entire outer side of the lung while connecting to the inner surface of the thoracic cavity. It extends to the diaphragm at the lower side. Both right and the left pleurae separate at mediastinum.
Parietal pleura is thicker of the two pleurae and is divided into four segments according to the areas they occupy.
Cervical pleura - Cervical pleura covers the cervical vertebrae and extends from the neck to the lungs apex.
Mediastinal pleura - It is the membrane that lines the mediastinum, which includes the central part of the thoracic cavity and surrounding organs.
Costal pleura - It lines the inner part of the ribs, the costal region of the cartilages, and the intercostal muscles.
Diaphragmatic pleura - The pleura covers the diaphragm at its convex side surface.
Your lungs are susceptible to various kinds of disorders. Some of the lung diseases are easy to treat, while others such as chronic or acute, become a challenge. Lung diseases can either be viral, bacterial, or fungal.
Some of the diseases of the lung are:Sarcoidosis
Sarcoidosis is a disorder that causes inflammation mainly to the lungs, lymph nodes, and other tissues. The condition leads to the formation of granulomas (abnormal nodules or masses). Genetic and bacterial or viral infections are some causes of sarcoidosis disorder,Some of the sarcoidosis symptoms are:
- Dry coughing persistently
- Shortness of breath
- Enlarged lymph nodes of the chest, armpits, and neck
- Hoarse voice
- Abnormal heartbeats
TB is an acute infectious disease of the lungs. It is a bacterial disease caused by a bacterium known as mycobacterium tuberculosis.
The bacterium spreads from an infected person to infect a healthy person through some droplets sprayed into the air when coughing or sneezing.Symptoms of Tuberculosis
Continuous severe coughing for over three weeks
- Bloody cough
- Chest pain when coughing or breathing
- Night sweating
- Weight loss (unintentional)
COPD is a chronic lung inflammatory disease that obstructs air flowing from the lungs. The bronchial tubes of your lungs contain elasticity, which pushes out the air from the lungs. For some reason, the bronchial tubes can lose the elasticity leading to over-expansion, which is COPD.
The significant cause of COPD is smoking, whether direct or passive. COPD is common in developed countries due to a high number of smokers. The developing regions are also at risk of COPD due to using smoky wood for fuel and smoky lanterns.COPD Symptoms
- Persistent coughing
- Bloody cough
- Pain when breathing or coughing
- Night sweating
- Loss of appetite
- Unintended loss of weight
Viral pneumonia is a lung health condition caused by a particular virus. At first, an infection can remain in your respiratory system's upper part without causing much effect. After some time and before treatment, the virus can move into the lungs leading to viral pneumonia.How Does the Virus Spread?
The viruses can spread by traveling through the air as fluid droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. If you breathe in the droplets, you are highly likely to contract the virus.Cause of Viral Pneumonia
Various viruses can cause viral pneumonia. Some of these viruses are:
- Cold and flu (influenza) viruses A and B responsible for annual flu epidemics mostly in adults
- RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) a common cause in children
- The chickenpox virus (rarely)
Symptoms of Viral Pneumonia
- Dry cough which can change after one or two days to produce yellow/green mucus
- Chest pain when coughing or breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle aches
Viral pneumonia can be life-threatening and highly infectious. Visit your medical facility or call your doctor immediately if you have such symptoms. Also, avoid interacting with people to protect them against the viral infection.Other Lung Diseases
Some of the other lung diseases that you need to know are:
Asthma - Asthma is a disease that affects your lung's air passageways. Inflammation and narrowing of the air passageways can impair your breathing. It is a prevalent lung disease that affects millions of adults and children.
Lung cancer - Lung cancer is a high life-threatening lung disease. Persistent cough, coughing blood, chest pain, especially when coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, are some of lung cancer signs. Visit your medical facility immediately for examination in the case of such symptoms.
Chronic bronchitis - Chronic bronchitis is a repeated inflammation of bronchial tube lining. A bronchial tube brings in oxygen into your lungs and passes out carbon dioxide from your lungs. Some of the chronic bronchitis symptoms are producing thick, discolored mucus, chest pain or discomfort, fever, chills, and fatigue.Pleurae Disorders
Pleurae can have various types of disorders. Some of the common pleura health issues are:Pleurisy
The inflammation of pleurae is known as pleurisy. The condition can cause severe chest pain when breathing or coughing.The Cause of Pleurisy
A viral lung infection such as tuberculosis or pneumonia can cause lung inflammation, which can then develop into pleurisy.
Other risk factors of pleurisy include:
- Chest trauma
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Blood clot or pulmonary embolism
- Some cancers
Pneumothorax is a health condition of the lungs. It happens when the air from the lungs leaks into the pleural cavity, which can cause lung collapse. In a severe case, it can cause the entire lung to collapse, or when mild, only a section of the lung collapses.
Lung collapse can impair gas exchange leading to insufficient oxygen or acidic blood due to excess carbon dioxide in the blood.Pneumothorax Causes
Some of the causes of pneumothorax are:
Injury - An injury to the lung caused by a blunt object or a sharp object penetrating your lungs can lead to lung tissue rupture or tear. The result of such an injury is air leakage that keeps your lung inflated.
Mechanical ventilation - Pneumothorax can relate to mechanical ventilation while assisting breathing. Most pneumothorax patients whose cause of the condition is ventilation are likely to have another existing lung disease. The specific pneumothorax disease for such patients is tension pneumothorax.
Health conditions - Other health conditions could lead to pneumothorax. Such conditions are; severe asthma, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).Symptoms of Pneumothorax
- Severe sudden chest pain or a steady ache
- Shortness of breath
- High heart rate
- Chest tightness
- Cold sweat breakout
Hemothorax is a critical health condition that can threaten your life if you fail to seek treatment urgently. The issue involves both hemo (blood) and thorax (chest). It occurs when blood accumulates inside the pleural cavity. The condition can also be called hemorrhagic pleural effusion.Causes of Hemothorax
Hemothorax may be caused by:
Traumatic injury - A blunt trauma to the chest can rapture the tiny blood vessels, which may then spill blood in the pleural cavity that is more difficult to drain.
If you realize that trauma or a penetrating injury is not the cause of hemothorax, then it might be either malignancy or pulmonary embolism.
Other diseases - Diseases such as tuberculosis, pleural cancer, hemophilia (blood clotting defect), pneumothorax, and pulmonary embolism.
Medical procedures - Some medical procedures such as heart surgery, venous catheter, or placement can cause viral pneumonia.Symptoms of Hemothorax
Some of the common symptoms of hemothorax disease include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Reduced breathing sound (clinical sign)
- High heartbeat rate
- Pleural Tumors
Iridology is a fantastic tool used to analyze areas of concern in the pleura and lungs. Through a photo of the eyes, there is a section as seen in the diagram above, depending on the markings in those spaces where we are able to do the analysis.
Keep in mind that Iridology is not a diagnostic tool but a tool used by a skilled Iridologist in recognizing potential problems.
Lungs and Pleura Disease Complementary and Alternative Therapy
There are various alternative treatments for heart health issues. However, you may require consulting your health practitioner for the best therapy and advice. The following are some of the recommendations from our natural health practitioner, Yvonne Dollard Perc.
Natural Supplements to Strengthen and Support the Lungs and the Pleura
Lobelia Extract - Lobelia has a long history of use in traditional herbal medicine as an expectorant for the upper respiratory tract. Lobelia is best known in traditional herbal medicine for its expectorant properties. Expectorants help the body to remove excess mucus from the respiratory tract.
Fenugreek & Thyme - Fenugreek & Thyme is a popular classic herbal combination of two herbs with expectorant and mucilaginous properties protecting the lungs.
LH-C Used in chronic weaknesses of the respiratory system. This Chinese combination was specially formulated to supplement the needs of a weakened metal constitution. The metal element in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) philosophy is related to the lungs and colon. Metal people are considered precise, orderly, and reserved. The Chinese call this formula fu lei, which can be translated to mean "strengthen the weak and thin." In TCM philosophy, it is believed that when the metal element is weak, the upper body and respiratory system are affected.
The health of your lungs depends almost entirely on you. Despite contracting lung infection unknowingly, you can manage your lungs' health effectively.
Being overweight is one reason for unhealthy or diseased lungs. If you are overweight, your lungs work excessively to provide enough clean air and to expel the used air.
Some of the ways you can promote your lungs' health is by living a healthy lifestyle, especially without smoking, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight by exercising regularly. Avoid subjecting your lungs to a toxic environment by wearing a mask when handling harmful chemicals.
Even though we all love smelling perfumes, go slow on the habit to avoid filing your lungs with unknown chemicals or 'perfume poisoning.' You may never know what the manufacturer might have used to create the fragrance.
Remember to avoid crowded places and to sanitize your hands regularly to prevent transmittable viruses that can cause life-threatening lung diseases. Air your room by opening windows to allow circulating air. Also, keep yourself warm during the cold season or when chilly to protect your lungs against cold-related diseases.
Every breath determines your health. Live in a clean and fresh air environment to maximize your health.
Editor: Yvonne Dollard Perc
Research Assistant: Elizabeth Njuguna
Designer: Sherry Robb
Yvonne offers in-person and virtual consultations with assessment of your specific needs, health and lifestyle coaching, and the best of integrative natural health care. To book your in person consultation, please call 250-468-7685!
This article is intended for educational purposes and the information contained within is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem. Please seek appropriate medical attention for any health complaints. We cannot take responsibility for your health care decisions. Our intent is only to offer health information to help you with your search for better health.