Adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a form of lung failure. It is a life-threatening lung condition. ARDS can occur in very ill or severely injured people. It is not a specific disease.
ARDS starts with the tiny blood vessels in the lungs. These vessels leak fluid into the lung sacs. The fluid decreases the ability of the lungs to move oxygen into the body.
ARDS can develop in anyone over the age of one year old.
ARDS can be caused by many types of injuries, including:
ARDS may occur within few days of a lung or bone marrow transplantation.
ARDS develops most often in people who are being treated for the conditions listed above. Very few who have these issues will go on to develop ARDS.
Factors that may increase your risk of ARDS include:
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to ARDS. These may be caused by other, more or less serious health conditions. If you or someone else is experiencing any one of them, seek medical help:
They often develop within 24-48 hours of the injury.
Doctors may suspect ARDS when:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. People who develop ARDS may be too sick to complain of symptoms. If a patient shows signs of developing ARDS, tests may include the following:
If you are able talk with the doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Often, ARDS patients are sedated to tolerate these treatments.
American Lung Association
National Library of Medicine
Canadian Lung Association
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ARDS Support Center. Understanding ARDS: acute respiratory distress syndrome and its effect on victims and loved ones. ARDS Support Center brochure. October 3, 2001. ARDS Support Center website. Available at: http://www.ards.org/learnaboutards/whatisards/brochure/. Accessed December 12, 2006.
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Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.