Your two lungs make oxygen available to your body and remove gases like carbon dioxide. There are many conditions that can affect your lungs. Not smoking may help you prevent some illnesses.
Your lungs make up a large part of your respiratory system, which is the network of organs and tissues that allow you to breathe.
You have two lungs, one on each side of your chest, which is also called the thorax. Your thorax is the area of your body between your neck and your abdomen.
The lung on your right side is divided into three lobes: the superior, the middle and the inferior. It’s shorter than your left lung, but also wider than your left lung. Both of your lungs are covered with a protective covering called pleural tissue.
Your left lung has two lobes: the superior and the interior. Your left lung is smaller than the right because your heart is where the middle lobe on your left lung would be. Your left lung has two parts that your right lung doesn’t have: the cardiac notch (where your heart fits) and the lingula, an extension of the superior lobe.
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Your lungs make oxygen available to your body and remove other gases, such as carbon dioxide, from your body. This process takes place 12 to 20 times per minute.
When you inhale through your nose or mouth, air travels down your pharynx (back of your throat), passes through your larynx (voice box) and into your trachea (windpipe).
Your trachea is divided into two air passages called bronchial tubes. One bronchial tube leads to your left lung, the other to your right lung. For your lungs to perform their best, your airways need to be open when you inhale and when you exhale. They also need to be free from inflammation (swelling) and abnormal amounts of mucus.
Your bronchial tubes lead to smaller air passages called bronchi, and then into bronchioles. The bronchioles end in tiny air sacs called alveoli, where oxygen is transferred from the inhaled air to your blood. Alveoli look like clusters of small round fruits.
After absorbing oxygen, the blood leaves your lungs and is carried to your heart. From there, it’s pumped through your body to provide oxygen to the cells of your tissues and organs.
When cells use oxygen, they produce carbon dioxide and transfer it to your blood. Your bloodstream carries the carbon dioxide back to your lungs. When you exhale, you remove the carbon dioxide.
Your respiratory system prevents harmful substances from entering your lungs by using:
Your lungs are located in your chest (your thorax). Your thoracic cavity is the name of the space that contains your lungs and other organs. Your lungs rest on a muscle called your diaphragm.
Healthy lungs are pinkish-gray in color. You’ve probably seen photographs that compare the lungs of people who smoke to the lungs of people who don’t. Damaged lungs are darker gray and can have black spots in them.
Your triangularly shaped right and left lungs look a little bit like the ears of an elephant.
A typical lung in a human adult lung weighs about 2.2 pounds and is a little longer than 9 inches when you’re breathing normally, and about 10.5 inches when your lungs are completely expanded.
There are many different lung conditions. Some are minor and temporary, while others are chronic and more severe.
Common signs and symptoms of lung conditions include:
Your healthcare provider can tell certain things during a physical examination. They can:
In addition to a physical examination, your provider may order different kinds of tests, including:
If you have a lung condition, your treatment will depend on your actual condition, as well as your health status. Types of treatments may include medications, exercises, devices and surgeries.
There are many things you can do to keep your lungs healthy or to help manage lung conditions.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Even though your respiratory system has ways to protect the body, your lungs can still get sick. Some conditions aren’t serious and are over quickly. Other conditions are more serious and long-lasting. If you have a chronic lung illness, your regular healthcare provider may refer you to a pulmonologist. It’s important to follow the suggestions from your healthcare team so you can breathe easily.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/15/2022.
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