Your trachea, or windpipe, is one part of your airway system. Airways are pipes that carry oxygen-rich air to your lungs. They also carry carbon dioxide, a waste gas, out of your lungs.
When you inhale, air travels from your nose, through your larynx, and down your windpipe. The windpipe splits into two bronchi that enter your lungs.
Problems with the trachea include narrowing, inflammation, and some inherited conditions. You may need a procedure called a tracheostomy to help you breathe if you have swallowing problems, or have conditions that affect coughing or block your airways. You might also need a tracheostomy if you are in critical care and need to be on a breathing machine.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute