Understanding Your Lungs

Understanding what is going on in your lungs can help you feel more control over your breathing. Here is a start…

How the Lungs Work

To understand COPD better, it helps to know how the lungs work.

Air comes in through your nose and mouth, moves through the trachea (tray key uh), and down into the lungs. Air moves farther into your lungs through the bronchial tubes. The air ends up in air sacs at the ends of these airways. These sacs are called alveoli (al vee oh lee). In these air sacs, oxygen from the air you breathe in is absorbed into the blood. Oxygen is then carried in the blood to all parts of your body to help your body function. Carbon dioxide is released from your blood and breathed out.

When the muscles around your lungs tighten and relax, air moves in and out. When these muscles tighten, the diaphragm moves down like a piston, pulling air into the lungs. When the muscles relax, the diaphragm moves up and pushes air out of the lungs.

Breathing, for the most part, is something our body does for us, without us having to think about it.

Parts of the Respiratory System

Trachea (tray-key-uh): the largest airway in the respiratory system (sometimes called the windpipe). It begins at the base of the neck, just below the voice box, and leads to the lungs.

Diaphragm (die-a-fram): the muscle that separates the chest cavity from the stomach. The diaphragm is the main muscle we use for breathing. When the diaphragm muscle tightens, the lungs expand.

Bronchial (brawn-key-el) tubes and bronchioles (brawn-keyoles): the airways of the lungs. Air flows through these tubes into and out of the lungs. Bronchial tubes are the larger airways. Bronchioles are smaller airways that lead to the alveoli.

Alveoli (al-vee-oh-lee): millions of tiny sacs at the very ends of the smallest tubes in the lungs. Oxygen is absorbed into the blood and carbon dioxide is released from the blood here.

Cilia (seal-lee-ah): tiny, hair-like fibers that line the bronchial tubes. They help move mucus up through the tubes so it can be coughed out.

Our Educational Calendar

Each month, the COPD Foundation publishes a variety of educational offerings geared toward individuals living with COPD, bronchiectasis, and NTM lung disease; caregivers; and health care professionals. Educational themes change monthly and focus on topics important to our community, such as lung fitness, avoiding flare-ups, getting the most from your therapies, living well with COPD and other health conditions, and pulmonary rehabilitation. Whether you are new to COPD or have had a diagnosis for many years, there is something for you each month. Content can be viewed on our website, social media channels, and in our newsletters. Take a look at our 2022 calendar below!

*click image for larger size COPD Foundation Educational Calendar

Review a list of COPD Frequently Asked Questions.

COPD Frequently Asked Questions

Resources and Support

The COPD Foundation offers resources such as COPD360social, an online community where you can connect with patients, caregivers and health care providers and ask questions, share your experiences and receive and provide support.