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Disease & Condition

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

ARDS

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) occurs when fluid builds up in the tiny, elastic air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs. More fluid in your lungs means less oxygen can reach your bloodstream.

Symptoms

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Labored and unusually rapid breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion and extreme tiredness

When to see a doctor

ARDS usually follows a major illness or injury, and most people who are affected are already hospitalized.

Causes

The most common underlying causes of ARDS include:

  • The most common cause of ARDS is sepsis, a serious and widespread infection of the bloodstream.
  • Inhalation of harmful substances. Breathing high concentrations of smoke or chemical fumes can result in ARDS, as can inhaling (aspirating) vomit.
  • Severe pneumonia.
  • Head, chest or other major injury.

Risk factors

People who have a history of chronic alcoholism are at higher risk of developing ARDS. They’re also more likely to die of ARDS.

Complications

  • Scarring in the lungs (pulmonary fibrosis)
  • Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)
  • Blood clots
  • Abnormal lung function
  • Memory, cognitive and emotional problems

Tests and diagnosis

Imaging

  • Chest X-ray
  • Computerized tomography (CT)

Lab tests

  • AVG Analysis
  • Complete Blood Count(CBC)

Heart tests

Because the signs and symptoms of ARDS are similar to those of certain heart problems, your doctor may recommend heart tests such as:

  • A sonogram of the heart, this test can reveal problems with the structures and the function of your heart.

Treatments and drugs

The first goal in treating ARDS is to improve the levels of oxygen in your blood. Without oxygen, your organs can’t function properly.

Oxygen

To get more oxygen into your bloodstream, your doctor will likely use:

  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Mechanical ventilation

Fluids

Carefully managing the amount of intravenous fluids is crucial.

Medication

People with ARDS usually are given medication to:

  • Prevent and treat infections
  • Relieve pain and discomfort
  • Prevent clots in the legs and lungs
  • Minimize gastric reflux
  • Sedate

Lifestyle and home remedies

If you’re recovering from ARDS, the following suggestions can help protect your lungs:

  • Quit smoking
  • Quit alcohol
  • Get vaccinated

 

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