Your respiratory system is the network of organs and tissues that help you breathe. This system helps your body absorb oxygen from the air so your organs can work. It also cleans waste gases, such as carbon dioxide, from your blood. Common problems include allergies, diseases or infections.
The respiratory system is the network of organs and tissues that help you breathe. It includes your airways, lungs and blood vessels. The muscles that power your lungs are also part of the respiratory system. These parts work together to move oxygen throughout the body and clean out waste gases like carbon dioxide.
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The respiratory system has many functions. Besides helping you inhale (breathe in) and exhale (breathe out), it:
The respiratory system has many different parts that work together to help you breathe. Each group of parts has many separate components.
Your airways deliver air to your lungs. Your airways are a complicated system that includes your:
From your lungs, your bloodstream delivers oxygen to all your organs and other tissues.
Muscles and bones help move the air you inhale into and out of your lungs. Some of the bones and muscles in the respiratory system include your:
When you breathe out, your blood carries carbon dioxide and other waste out of the body. Other components that work with the lungs and blood vessels include:
Some of the other components of your respiratory system include:
Many conditions can affect the organs and tissues that make up the respiratory system. Some develop due to irritants you breathe in from the air, including viruses or bacteria that cause infection. Others occur as a result of disease or getting older.
Conditions that can cause inflammation (swelling, irritation and pain) or otherwise affect the respiratory system include:
Being able to clear mucus out of the lungs and airways is important for respiratory health.
To keep your respiratory system healthy, you should:
Contact your provider if you have breathing trouble or pain. Your provider will listen to your chest, lungs, and heartbeat and look for signs of a respiratory issue such as infection. To see if your respiratory system is working as it should, your healthcare provider may use imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI. These tests allow your provider to see swelling or blockages in your lungs and other parts of your respiratory system. Your provider may also recommend pulmonary function tests, which will include spirometry. A spirometer is a device that can tell how much air you inhale and exhale. See your doctor for regular checkups to help prevent serious respiratory conditions and lung disease. Early diagnosis of these issues can help prevent them from becoming severe.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/24/2020.
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