The lungs are one of the largest vital organs in the human body. They are comprised of two oval shaped sacks that are located on either side of the heart with an adjoining air tube. They dominate the chest cavity and are protected by the ribs. The left lung is slightly smaller than the right allowing room for the heart within the chest cavity. The lungs have a very important function in the body and without them it would be impossible to live. So what is the function of the lungs? Read this article to find out.
What is the function of the lungs?
The primary function of the lungs is to absorb oxygen into the bloodstream or, more simply, to breathe. When the lungs expand the diaphragm flattens and the rib cage lifts. The air is directed down the airways, into the bronchial tubes and into the specialized lining (alveoli) in the lungs. The alveoli take part in a gas exchange in which the oxygen from the air is absorbed into the bloodstream via the tiny capillaries that surround the alveoli. Carbon dioxide is extracted from the bloodstream and is breathed out. Without the lungs the body would have no way to extract oxygen from the air and the body would suffocate.
The lungs also have other functions in the body. These include:
- Talking – Exhaled air is needed to allow the vocal cords to produce noise.
- Altering the pH of the blood – The lungs do this by regulating the amount of carbon dioxide present within the blood.
- Filtering small blood clots – The lungs filer out small blood clots from the veins.
- Filtering out gas micro-bubbles – Small bubbles can occur in the blood during decompression, the lungs filter these out.
- Converting angiotensin I to angiotensin II by producing an enzyme that coverts the substance. This plays a part in regulating blood pressure.
- Secreting Immunoglobulin A which prevents against respiratory infections.
- Being a reservoir of blood for the body storing up to 450 ml of blood. This can help the body respond to a hemorrhage.