What are diseases of the respiratory system?

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors

The respiratory system is the group of tissues and organs in your body that enable you to breathe. The respiratory system includes the airways - nose, mouth, voice box (larynx), trachea (windpipe) and bronchial tubes, the lungs and their blood vessels and the muscles that help you breathe -- including but not limited to the diaphragm and intercostal, abdominal and neck muscles.

Because the respiratory system is made up of so many different tissues and organs, there are a lot of things that can go wrong and subsequently a lot of different diseases that can affect it.


Some of the many diseases that can affect the respiratory system include:

  • Laryngitis - Swelling and irritation of the larynx
  • Bronchitis - An infection in your bronchial tubes
  • Tonsillitis - Inflammation of the tonsils
  • Pneumonia - An infection deep in your lungs
  • Bronchiectasis - Widening and destruction of the airways, often caused by recurrent infection or inflammation
  • Influenza (the flu) - A virus that enters your body through your nose and mouth and causes fever, headaches, muscle aches and sore throat
  • Asthma - A chronic disease in which your airway walls become sore and swollen, narrowing so that your lungs get less air
  • Tuberculosis (TB) - A bacterial infection that attacks the lungs and other parts of the body and can be deadly if not treated correctly
  • Lung cancer - One of the most common cancers in the world, usually caused by cigarette smoke
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - Damage of the airways and air sacs from cigarette smoke and other pollutants that prevents airflow in and out of your lungs
  • Emphysema - A type of COPD, usually caused by cigarette smoke, which makes it hard to catch your breath
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE) - A blood clot that blocks a lung artery because of surgery or long periods of inactivity