The lungs are organs of respiration occupying the upper two-thirds of the thoracic cavity. They provide a large surface area for gas exchange – receiving oxygen and removing carbon dioxide – with air. Respiratory diseases are a major cause of death worldwide and many lung diseases are attributed to smoking. It is estimated that by 2025, the number of cigarette smokers will rise to 1.5 billion, further enhancing the growing burden of tobacco-related respiratory illnesses.
The most common diseases of the lungs include tuberculosis, influenza, and pneumonia. In addition, allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are also major contributors to the global disease burden. Lung diseases usually present with the following problems: cough, chest pain, breathlessness, hemoptysis, pleural effusion, and respiratory failure.
Respiratory illnesses are diagnosed through lung function tests, chest X-rays, CT scans, and arterial blood gas tests. Many lung diseases require the administration of bronchodilators (inhalers), corticosteroids (to reduce inflammation), any antibiotics (for bacterial infections). Flu or pneumonia vaccines significantly lower the risk of respiratory infections. Some severe diseases of the lungs, including later stages of COPD and lung cancer, may require surgery, such as lung transplant and lung volume reduction surgery.