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Respiratory System Disorders

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What are Respiratory Disorders?

IVSAT 2024

Respiratory system diseases are diseases that occur in the lungs or the human airway, which affects human respiration. A disorder is the malfunctioning of an organ of the human body. Respiratory system disorders are the medical terms that are used to study the several different types of allergies, infections, and various other diseases that are related to different tissues, organs, and specialized cells of the human respiratory system. 

The human respiratory system comprises the upper respiratory tract, bronchi, alveoli, trachea, pleura, bronchioles, and pleural cavity. For instance, the common cold is an example of a mild respiratory disorder, while pneumonia, asthma, lung cancer, tuberculosis, influenza, etc. are examples of some serious and life-threatening respiratory disorders.

Factors Associated with Respiratory Disorders

There can be several internal as well as external factors associated with respiratory system disorders. A few of these factors include:

  1. Allergies

Certain people have allergies to dust and smoke. Such people are more vulnerable to pathogens that can affect the respiratory system. 

  1. Bacterial and Viral Infections

Lungs or other parts of the respiratory system can get infected by viruses such as SARs virus or by Covid virus and can cause problems in its proper functioning. This can have long-term effects as well.

  1. Smoking

Smoking can reduce the capacity of the lungs to respire thereby making them more vulnerable to respiratory disorders. The habit of smoking excessively can cause lung cancer.

  1. Genetics

Genetic factors can increase the risk of getting infected by lung diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

  1. Air pollution

Pollutants emitted from various sources are inhaled by living organisms making them more vulnerable to respiratory diseases. Increasing air pollution has resulted in the rise of various lung diseases. Some of them are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc. 

Types of Respiratory System Diseases

Respiratory system diseases affect millions of people all around the world every year due to the several factors that are associated with respiratory system disorders. There are mainly three types of respiratory diseases as follows: -

  • Lung Tissue Disease: The human lungs are covered with a thin layer of tissue called pleura. The structure of the lung tissues gets affected due to certain viral and bacterial infections, the outcome of which is the scarring and the inflammation of the pleura that aids the lungs to expand normally, and this makes the act of breathing difficult. 

  • Airway Disease: Airway diseases affect the bronchial tubes that are responsible for transporting oxygen and other important gases in and out of the lungs. In these kinds of diseases, the airway passage gets reduced, either narrowing of the airway passage or the blockage of the bronchial tubes, which results in difficulty of breathing. 

  • Lung Circulation Disease: These kinds of diseases occur when the blood vessels of the lungs get coagulated, swollen, or damaged. This affects the ability of the lungs to exchange gases in and out of the human body. In the worst cases, these kinds of disorders can affect the functioning of the heart as well.

Causes of Respiratory Diseases

Respiratory disorders can be caused due to the exposure of the pollutants present in the atmosphere, smoking, asbestos, radon, inhaling tobacco smoke, etc.

Respiratory Diseases

The major kind of respiratory diseases list that occur in humans are as follows:

  • Emphysema: It can be defined as the chronic disease reduction of the respiratory surface that occurs due to the damage of the lung alveolar walls. This disease is generally caused by cigarette smoking. The major symptoms of this disease include cough and shortness of breath. Emphysema can also lead to the loss of the elasticity of the lungs. The major factors that cause emphysema are given below:

  • Air pollution

  • Smoking tobacco

  • Dust

  • Exposure to passive cigarette smoking

  • Chemicals

  • Asthma: It is a chronic disease that affects the bronchi and the bronchioles present in the lungs. Asthma can cause difficulty in breathing, cough, restlessness, severe cold, and a wheezing sound while breathing. The major factors responsible for causing asthma include respiratory infections, air pollutants, cold air, physical activity, airborne allergens, etc.

  • Lung Cancer: This type of cancer generally occurs in the main part of the lungs, and it can develop in any part of the lungs. The treatment for lung cancer depends on the type, location, and spread of cancer in the lungs and other parts.

  • Occupational Respiratory Disorders: These kinds of respiratory disorders are the ones that occur due to the long-term inhalation of the chemicals proteins and dust, and this affects the respiratory system badly. For example, the inhalation of asbestos dust causes asbestosis. The other occupational respiratory disorders can happen due to the inhalation of the substances given below:

    1. Sprays of paints, varnish, acids, and pesticides

    2. Gases from industries like ammonia, nitrogen oxides, and chlorine

    3. Smoke from burning organic materials

    4. Dust from silica, pesticides, cotton, coal, and drug powders

    5. Fumes from metals

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): These types of diseases include all the respiratory diseases that cause the inability to exhale and breathlessness. It is usually caused by people who are exposed to some sort of smoke. This is a very serious type of disorder and generally gets worse even if you stop smoking.

  • Sinusitis: This causes the inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nasal sinus, and the mucous membranes produce mucus that usually drains into the nasal cavity. The major causes of the inflammation of the mucous membranes are viral or bacterial infections and some other airborne allergens.

Fun Facts about the Respiratory System

We understand that after studying so much information, your mind is exhausted and is craving for something fun. Thus to make this topic more interesting for you, Vedantu has brought fun facts about the respiratory system. (You need not remember these). These are as follows: 

  • Your lungs are the organs that can float on water

  • Your nose acts as a filter, heater, and humidifier

  • There have been instances where people have lived with just one lung

  • Breathing leads to loss of water 

  • If lungs are unfolded and stretched they can be as big as a tennis court

  • Your left lung is smaller than the right

  • The diaphragm controls 80% of the breathing activity

  • There are about 300 to 500 alveoli in adult lungs

  • The human body breathes on an average of 17000 times


After reading this one can understand how grave the problem of respiratory diseases is. Especially, in the wake of a global covid pandemic, the situation has become even grimmer.  To tackle these problems, various initiatives have been taken by authorities across the globe. Vedantu suggests you read more about these to update your knowledge base. It will not just make you a better student, but also a responsible citizen.

The above-mentioned topic is very important for the biology exams and at least 1 one question is expected in the school exams. Vedantu understands this, therefore it has brought this write-up to you for free.

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FAQs on Respiratory System Disorders

1. What Does Respiration Mean? What is a Respiratory Disease?

Respiration refers to the exchange of gases between blood, air, environment, and tissue cells. It is an essential bodily function for living organisms as it facilitates the inhalation of oxygen and excretion of carbon dioxide. Any type of problem with the respiratory system can cause huge discomfort to the individual. Respiratory disease occurs in the lungs or the human airway and affects human respiration, which causes difficulty in breathing. Respiratory disease can be caused due to a variety of natural as well as man-made factors.

2. What are the Causes of Respiratory Disease? In the Respiratory System, How is the Carbon Dioxide Transferred into the Plasma?

The primary causes behind respiratory diseases can be classified into natural causes and man-made causes, with the latter being the major causes. Respiratory diseases can be caused due to the exposure of the pollutants present in the atmosphere, smoking, asbestos, radon, inhaling tobacco smoke, etc. The carbon dioxide in the respiratory system gets transferred into the plasma as bicarbonate ions.

3. What diseases have been discussed in Respiratory System Disorders?

Respiratory System Disorders is a topic which has a lot of importance especially due to covid wave which also affects the respiratory system, thus questions are expected from this topic. In this topic, many diseases have been discussed such as emphysema, asthma, lung cancer, Occupational Respiratory Disorders, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Sinusitis, and many more. For your school biology exams, you may study only these as it covers all the diseases mentioned in the syllabus.

4. What all am I supposed to know from Respiratory System Disorders ?

For the NEET examination, you can expect one question based on diseases. This can be from Respiratory System Disorders as well due to the ongoing covid pandemic. For the NEET examination, you are expected to know the categories of diseases, types of diseases, factors that influence these diseases, part of respiratory disease affected by these diseases, etc. You may refer to guidance provided by Vedantu for the NEET Biology examination to know more. You can also refer to previous year's question papers of the NEET examination, these will help you gauge the importance of this topic.

5. What types of diseases have been discussed in Respiratory System Disorders?

Types of respiratory diseases are categorized into 3 categories in Respiratory System Disorders. All the diseases have been classified into 3 types, those are Lung Tissue Disease, Airway Disease, and Lung Circulation Disease. As their names suggest, lung tissue disease affects tissues of the lungs known as pleura, airway disease affects bronchial tubes and lung circulation disease affects the areolar region of the lungs. Depending on which part of the respiratory system gets infected, diseases are classified into these 3.

6. How do I remember Respiratory System Disorders?

There are various ways of remembering Respiratory System Disorders. We believe well begun is half done, therefore we suggest first you read and understand the topic properly. You may refer to the content given above or you may refer to biology NCERT books - free pdfs available on Vedantu’s website for free. Once you have understood it, revise the content of the topic regularly from time to time.  Also, practice diagrams associated with the topic because diagrams in biology fetch you additional marks. This simple strategy of conceptual clarity and regular revision will ensure you remember this topic well on your d-day.

7. What topics do I need to study before I start with Respiratory System Disorders?

To understand disease associated with any system you need to be aware of the system very well and also how it functions. Because only then you will be able to understand how the disease is affecting the normal functioning of the body. Thus to understand Respiratory System Disorders you need to first study the human respiratory system and functioning. Thoroughly understand the passage of oxygen, its purification, various organs involved in the system, etc. Knowing all this in and out will equip you with enough knowledge to understand Respiratory System Disorders.

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