Lung Support: A Pulmonologist Answers Twitter Questions About Lungs

In this video, pulmonologist Dr. Ravi Calhan answers questions about the lungs from Twitter. He explains that vaping can cause inflammation and injury to the lungs, leading to fluid buildup in the air sacs and difficulty breathing. The lungs do not distinguish between oxygen and carbon dioxide; instead, gases are exchanged between the air sacs and the blood. Lung transplants are possible for chronic lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis or COPD. Dr. Calhan also describes the different sounds of healthy and unhealthy lungs, the effects of cold air on the lungs, and the impact of smoking on lung health compared to smoking marijuana or vaping. He discusses COVID-19’s effects on the lungs, the use of pulse oximeters to measure blood oxygen levels, and various lung conditions such as asthma and pneumonia. Lastly, he addresses questions about lung cancer, AI technology in diagnosing lung abnormalities, and collapsed lungs.

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How does this happen?

– Vaping Associated Lung Injury (VALI) can cause inflammation in the lungs, leading to fluid buildup and difficulty breathing.
– Lungs don’t inherently know the difference between oxygen and carbon dioxide; gases move between the air sacs and blood vessels in the lungs.
– Lung transplants are performed for chronic lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, or COPD.
– Wheezing can occur when there is resistance to air movement in the windpipes, often seen in asthma or COPD.
– Crackles in the lungs can indicate the presence of fluid or scarring, caused by conditions like heart failure or pneumonia.
– Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a common lung disease characterized by airflow limitation and loss of elasticity in the lungs.
– Smoking marijuana causes less lung damage compared to smoking tobacco due to lower usage and potential bronchodilator effects.
– COVID-19 can cause pneumonia, leading to fluid-filled lungs, difficulty breathing, and low blood oxygen levels.
– A pulse oximeter measures blood oxygen levels using infrared light to detect changes in hemoglobin configuration.
– When performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, exhaled air contains mostly nitrogen, similar to atmospheric air.
– While the lungs themselves don’t have muscles, the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles can be trained for improved breathing.
– Inhaling anything other than air is considered bad for the lungs, and lung injuries caused by smoking or environmental exposure may not fully heal.
– The uneven number of lobes in the lungs is due to the need for space to accommodate the heart on the left side of the chest.
– Lung cancer is primarily associated with smoking, but non-smokers can also develop lung cancer due to radon exposure or other factors.
– Automated tools on CAT scans may be helpful in identifying lung abnormalities that are not visible to the human eye, improving early detection and monitoring.
– Lung collapse, known as a pneumothorax, typically occurs due to injury or puncture in the lung, causing air to escape and leading to deflation of the lung.


I’m pulmonologist Dr. Ravi Calhan. Let’s answer some questions from Twitter. This is lung support.

Jay Wisen asks, „If you vape, what do your lungs look like?“ Normally, a lung looks clear with black areas indicating air. However, vaping can cause lung injury and inflammation, filling the air sacs with fluid. This makes it difficult for oxygen and carbon dioxide to move in and out of the lungs, leading to breathing problems.

@Gvybi asks, „How do lungs know what’s oxygen and what’s carbon dioxide?“ Lungs don’t know. When air enters the lungs, it spreads out in air sacs. Oxygen from the air attaches to hemoglobin in blood vessels near the air sacs. Carbon dioxide, which is higher in the blood, diffuses out into the air sacs.

@HarrisA1 asks, „Can lungs be transplanted?“ Yes, lung transplants are done for chronic lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, or COPD. In a lung transplant, a lung is removed and replaced with a new one. However, the patient must be severely ill to qualify for a transplant.

@NeimanMarcusEsq asks, „I wonder what bad lungs sound like?“ When a doctor uses a stethoscope, good lungs sound normal without extra noises. Wheezing is a common abnormal lung sound, indicating resistance to airflow in the windpipes. Crackles can also be heard when there is fluid in the air sacs, caused by conditions like heart failure or pneumonia.

@UC_You_Me asks, „What is COPD?“ COPD is a lung disease primarily caused by smoking. It gives the lung less elasticity, making it difficult to exhale air fully. People with COPD may struggle with breathing and movement due to air trapped in their lungs.

@Blast_Bottle asks, „Does anyone have studies on the effects of cannabis inhalation on the lungs?“ Comparatively, smoking marijuana causes less injury to the lungs than smoking tobacco cigarettes. However, vaping cannabis can cause long-term problems due to the additional substances in vape juice.

@Cattle_Golf asks, „What do alveoli feel like?“ Alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs, feel more like a sponge than something firm. They are surrounded by a „Saran Wrap“ like layer called pleura, keeping them together.

@Emily_Cb1z asks, „What does COVID do to the lungs?“ COVID causes pneumonia, resulting in fluid-filled air sacs. This consolidation consists of bacteria, immune cells, and white blood cells fighting the infection, making breathing difficult.

@YoyoYelena asks, „Why is cold air hard on lungs?“ Cold air can irritate the windpipes, causing asthma flare-ups or wheezing. Breathing through the nose and warming the air before inhalation can help reduce the effects of cold air on the lungs.

@AlexanderMcCoy4s asks, „Do smokers do better than non-smokers in high altitudes?“ Smokers do not fare better at high altitudes. In fact, they may experience difficulties due to impaired oxygen transfer in their lungs. The body adapts to high altitudes by increasing hemoglobin levels.

@Hirojima asks, „How does a pulse oximeter measure blood oxygen levels?“ A pulse oximeter uses infrared light to measure blood oxygen levels. Hemoglobin’s configuration changes when oxygenated, affecting the light absorption. A normal blood oxygen level is around 95 or higher.

@PaisleyMotts asks, „Is mouth-to-mouth resuscitation real?“ When someone breathes out, it is not purely carbon dioxide but a mix of gases similar to regular air. The concentration of carbon dioxide is slightly elevated, but not to a lethal extent.

@WaterCooler asks, „Do lungs have muscles?“ Lungs themselves don’t have muscles for breathing. Breathing is controlled by the diaphragm and other muscles responsible for expanding and contracting the chest.

@BPHesq asks, „Which is worse for your lungs, vaping or smoking?“ Both vaping and smoking are harmful to the lungs. Inhaling anything other than air can lead to lung damage. While some lung injuries might heal, others, like COPD or pulmonary fibrosis caused by smoking, are irreversible.

@AoLiviani asks, „How does a lung collapse?“ Lung collapses, known as pneumothorax, usually occur due to injury. When air escapes into the space between the lung and the rib cage, it creates pressure, causing the lung to deflate and collapse.

These are all the questions for today. Thanks for watching „Lung Support.“