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Medical TermDescription
-capniacarbon dioxide
-thoraxchest, pleural cavity
acute respiratory distress syndromeA lung condition that causes low oxygen levels in the blood. It can be life threatening.
alveoliAir sacs in the lung which allow exchange of blood oxygen and carbon dioxide.
anoxiaAbsence of oxygen in body tissues despite adequate blood flow.
antitussive agentsCough medicine that acts centrally on the medullary cough center.
asbestosisLung disease characterized by interstitial fibrosis. Caused by inhalation of asbestos particles.
asphyxiaCondition caused by lack of oxygen, leading to loss of consciousness and death. Causes include drowning, suffocation, choking and inhaling carbon monoxide.
asthmaChronic bronchial inflammatory disorder. Characterized by breathing difficulty, wheezing, coughing and dyspnea.
atelectasisPartial or complete failure of a lung to expand due to alveoli deflation. Can occur after surgery, trauma, infections.
bradypneaSlow breathing.
bronch/obronchial tube
bronchiThe two large air tubes of the lungs branching from the trachea. Secondary bronchi, called bronchioles, branch from bronchi.
bronchi/obronchial tube
bronchiectasisPersistent abnormal dilatation of the bronchi caused by chronic infection and inflammation.
bronchitisInflammation of the large airways often caused by bacterial and viral infections and by cigarette smoke.
bronchodilatorSubstance that expands the bronchi and bronchioles, increasing airflow to the lungs.
bronchorrheaAbnormal discharge of mucus from the bronchi.
bronchoscopyVisual examination and possibly treatment of the bronchi, throat, larynx and trachea using a fiber optical device.
capn/ocarbon dioxide
chokingA condition of the respiratory airways being blocked by an obstruction or constriction of the neck or swelling of the larynx.
chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseRespiratory diseases which affect bronchial air movement, causing breathing problems. Includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
croupPediatric respiratory infection causing swelling near the vocal cords. It is characterized by a barking cough or stridor.
cyanosisA bluish or purplish discoloration of the skin or mucous membranes due to inadequate oxygen in the blood.
cystic fibrosisA genetic disease of the exocrine glands. Large amounts of thick mucus clog the lungs and obstruct the airways.
diaphragmThe muscle sheet that that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdomen. The diaphragm's contraction and relaxation changes the volume of the thoracic cavity, aiding breathing.
diphtheriaA bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract that causes a thick web to form in the back of the throat. May be fatal. Preventable with immunization. Can also damage heart muscle and nerves.
dysphoniaDifficulty in speaking.
dyspneaDifficult or labored breathing. Can indicate heart failure or a respiratory abnormality.
emphysemaA chronic lung disease characterized by decreased numbers of alveoli and eventual destruction of alveoli walls. Caused by genetic defects and smoking.
epiglottisCartilage that prevents food from entering the trachea.
epistaxisNose bleed.
hemoptysisCoughing up blood or blood-stained mucus from the respiratory tract.
hemothoraxHemorrhage within the pleural cavity, often from chest trauma.
hypercapniaAbnormal increase in carbon dioxide in the blood.
hyperpneaDeep breathing. Can be normal during exercise or abnormal due to anemia or sepsis.
hypopneaShallow or abnormally slow breathing.
hypoxemiaOxygen deficiency in arterial blood.
hypoxiaInsufficient oxygen levels in body organs and tissues.
influenzaAcute, contagious viral infection of the respiratory system.
laryngectomyPartial or total removal of the larynx.
laryngitisInflammation of the larynx, including the vocal cords. Characterized by voice disorders, usually viral etiology.
laryngoscopyVisual examination of the larynx. May also include treatment.
larynxThe voice box. Includes the vocal cords and surrounding cartilage.
lungsA pair of organs that aerate the blood. The right lung is divided into three lobs while the left lung has two lobes.
mediastinumThe central section of the chest cavity, containing the heart, arteries, veins, esophagus, trachea, bronchi, lymph nodes and thymus.
nebulizersDevices that create an aerosol a mist (vapor). It is used to administer drugs or to humidify air.
noseA part of the upper respiratory tract. It includes the external nose, the nasal cavity, and the paranasal sinuses.
nosocomial pneumoniaPneumonia acquired during a hospital stay.
paranasal sinusesAir-filled cavities located around the nasal cavity. There are four pairs: frontal, sphenoid, maxillary and ethmoid.
peak flow meterSimple device that allows asthma patients to check lung airflow.
pertussisWhooping cough. Contagious bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract. Cold-like symptoms followed by many weeks of coughing. Preventable with immunization.
pharyngitisSore throat. Inflammation of the throat.
pharynxThe throat. A fibromuscular tube that conducts air to the larynx and lungs and food to the esophagus.
phlegmMucus in the respiratory airways (trachea, bronchial tree).
phon/osound, voice
pleur/opleura, rib
pleuraThe membrane enveloping the lungs consisting of two layers. The visceral pleura is attached directly to the lungs. The outer parietal pleura lines the thoracic cavity and diaphragm. Between the two layers is the pleural cavity, containing a lubricating liquid film.
pleural effusionExcessive fluid in the pleural cavity which may cause breathlessness.
pleural friction rubSound created by the rubbing of when the chest wall moves. Stops when patient holds her breath. Often heard with pleurisy. Thick inflamed surfaces sliding by one another.
pleurisyInflammation of the pleura, the membranes covering the lungs.
pleurodyniaInflamed lung membranes causing pain during inhalation.
pneum/olung, air
pneumoconiosisOccupational lung disease caused by prolonged inhalation of dust. Common lung disease in mining.
pneumonectomySurgical removal of part or all of a lung.
pneumoniaInflammation of the lungs with alveoli filling with pus. Typically caused by infection and can follow flu, colds and other illnesses.
pneumothoraxPartial or fully collapsed lung. An accumulation of air in the pleural cavity. Caused by trauma, such as a gun shot or stab wound and can also occur spontaneously.
pulmonaryPertaining to the lungs.
pulmonary edemaExcessive accumulation of fluid in the lung. Can be life-threatening. Often associated with heart failure.
pulmonary embolismA clot blocking of the pulmonary artery or one of its branches.
pulmonary fibrosisProgressive formation of fibrotic (scar) tissue in the lungs. Patients show increasing dyspnea.
pulmonary function testA battery of tests that evaluate the volume and flow rate of air in and out of the lungs.
pulmonologistAn internal medicine specialist concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and defects of the lungs and bronchial tree.
pulse oximeterDevice that measures oxygen saturation in the blood.
respiratory systemThe organs and structures that bring about gas exchange between ambient air and the blood.
respiratory therapyCare of patients with abnormalities associated with the pulmonary system.
rhinitisInflammation of the nasal mucous membrane.
sinusitisInflammation of the sinuses.
sleep apneaSleep disorder characterized by multiple starts and stops of breathing, interfering with normal sleeping patterns. Measurable decrease in blood oxygen levels.
sneezingThe sudden, forceful, involuntary expulsion of air from the nasal cavities and mouth due to irritation to the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract.
snoringNoisy breathing during sleep, due to vibration of the soft palate and other soft tissue in the upper airway.
spir/oto breath
spirometerDevice that measures inhaled or exhaled air volume.
sputumMaterial coughed up from the lungs.
sudden infant death syndromeThe abrupt and unexplained death of an apparently healthy infant under one year of age. Positioning infants for sleep on their backs or sides has reduced SIDS incidence.
tachypneaAbnormally rapid breathing rate.
thorac/ochest, pleural cavity
thoracentesisRemoval of fluid or air from the thoracic cavity, usually with a needle.
thoracotomySurgical incision into the chest wall.
thoraxThe chest cavity. Principal organs are the heart and lungs.
trache/otrachea (windpipe)
tracheaThe wind pipe. Cartilaginous and membranous tube descending from the larynx and branching into the right and left main bronchi.
tracheostomySurgical creation of an opening into the trachea to insert a tube to facilitate breathing.
tracheotomySurgical incision of the trachea.
tuberculosisBacterial infection that usually affects the lungs.
ventilatorsMechanical devices used to assist respiration.
whooping coughA respiratory infection caused by Bordetella pertussis and characterized by paroxysmal coughing ending in a prolonged crowing intake of breath.

Authors and Reviewers

Authored by Dr. Barbara A. Erickson
Medically reviewed by Dr. Jonathan Keroes, MD
Last Update: 12/18/2022
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