Introducing Lungs as a bodily organ of function
Knowing that every human being is different in external appearance, emotion and behaviour, the lung is an amazing organ because it is intrinsically the same in a typical human being. Accordingly, each and every single individualisation created within a human being is united by the miracles of every breath.
“Caring for lungs whether diseased or not is about caring for the divine miracles”.
It is therefore important to understand the miracles that sustain our breath and lungs. As imperfect as it may seem in physical creation, the human body is an amazing instrument of divine creation like all living things on earth due to the very particle that is equally abundant in the universe.
Amazing facts of the human lung that we’ve realised along the way include:
Firstly, although the skin is commonly referred to as the largest ‘epithelial’ surface of the body, it is actually the lungs that covers the greatest surface area of 50 to 100 m2 compared to the skin’s surface area of 2 square meters or more.
Secondly, lungs also function as a major organ of immune defense, lymphatic, endocrine and cardiovascular functions.
Thirdly, lungs can absorb gases, vapors and aerosols of ‘respirable’ size measuring 1 to 10 microns in diameter, thus it is a major entry and exit point of physical vulnerability that is dependent upon human behavior and environment.
Fourthly, the two adult lungs only weight 1.3 to 1.5 kgs maximum with the left lung smaller of the two.
Fifthly, of the total estimated lengths of the airways for the two lungs at 2,400 kilometers, the essential gas exchange occurs in the two-thirds of so-called ‘distal’ airways which are connected to 300 to 500 million units of alveoli.
Sixthly, the lungs are essentially ‘dry’ despite the high pressure circulation in association with the heart due to the combined effects of proteins called surfactants, collective pressures of the blood proteins and the amazing elastic property of the alveoli.
And finally, a normal adult breathes up to 15 kgs of air per day through the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.
It is clearly evident that caring for people affected by lung disease require methodical attention to medical care in addition to a well-balanced daily individualised plan of (re)-learning to breathe, nourishing meals, nurturing exercises and loving attention to the mind’s effect on the body.
“Caring for lung disease requires a thorough understanding of the many different manifestation of the body’s ills”
There are many manifestations of illness and disease affecting the lungs. Lung diseases traditionally meant the stigma of being poverty-stricken, living in over-crowded cities and imposed by adverse genetic background. Diseases such as tuberculosis, bronchiectasis, lung infections, and occupational lung diseases continue to cause insurmountable human suffering in both our local communities and around the world.
The rapid expansion of genetic technology, advanced molecular biology and synthetic organic biochemistry over the past three decades has allowed us to realise that even lungs can be affected by a diverse spectrum of human illness that is driven by uncontrolled inflammation of the body.
Consequently, we now see more bodily (‘systemic’) diseases that affect the lung. Notable examples include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), autoimmune arthritis, sarcoidosis and malignancy-related lung diseases.
Even asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) are increasingly recognised as inflammatory diseases affecting the airways and the lungs.
Our vision of Medicine is that we must proactively address the underlying causation of disease especially the phenomenon of ‘lifestyle diseases’ and ‘self against self’ (‘autoimmunity’) given we are directing most, if not all, of our material resources towards relieving human suffering through medications, radiation therapy, surgery and rehabilitation.