What are diseases of the respiratory system?

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