Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)- This is a pathological condition of lungs which causes depleted oxygen levels in bloodstream resulting in damage to other vital organs of the body due to decreased supply of oxygen. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is usually caused as a result of some another underlying illness or injury and can be potentially life threatening. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is also known by names like "Still Lung", "Shock Lung", "Wet Lung", and Non-Cardiac Pulmonary Edema.

What Is Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)?

What Is Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)?

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) as stated is a pathological condition of the lungs which causes depleted levels of oxygen in the bloodstream. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) can potentially be a life threatening condition as depleted oxygen levels to vital organs of the body may damage the organs substantially and beyond repair. Individuals with Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) usually suffer from other underlying illness before developing this condition and may already have a full blown condition before even starting treatment for the underlying illness.

Causes Of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

There are many medical conditions which can cause Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Some of the conditions are as follows:

  • Sepsis: In this condition, the blood in the body is infected by bacteria.
  • Pneumonia: A common infection of the lungs.
  • Excessive Bleeding: This can be caused due to severe injury or trauma to the chest or head.
  • Inhalation of Harmful Substances: Breathing in huge amounts of fumes or smoke.

Some Facts About Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

Some Of The Facts About Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) are:

  • This is a condition that causes depleted oxygen levels in the blood damaging vital organs like brain, kidneys, liver etc.
  • Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is usually caused due to an underlying illness or condition
  • In this condition, as a result of injuries or illnesses, the tiny blood vessels present in the lungs begin to leak more fluid than usual into the air sacs thus preventing lungs from filling in with air and oxygenating the blood adequately
  • Illnesses such as sepsis and pneumonia are known to cause Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
  • Some of the symptoms of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) are rapid breathing and depleted oxygen levels in blood
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is usually treated with oxygen therapy, fluids, and medications.
  • ARDS is definitely curable but a percentage of people continue to have problems like shortness of breath, persistent fatigue, muscle weakness, etc.

Risk Factors For Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

Some Of The Risk Factors For Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) are:

  • Direct Lung Injury
  • Medical conditions directly or indirectly affecting the lungs
  • Pneumonia
  • Inhaling harmful smoke
  • Use of ventilator
  • A near drowning episode
  • Sepsis
  • Excessive bleeding due to injury or trauma
  • Injury to chest
  • Pancreatitis
  • Fat embolism
  • Medication reaction

Symptoms Of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

In the beginning of the condition, the affected individual will feel as if there is no enough air filled in the lungs during breathing along with rapid breathing. The other symptoms are dependent on the underlying cause of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). There are instances where there may be presence of hypotension, confusion, severe fatigue suggesting that enough oxygen is not being supplied to vital organs in the body.

Diagnosis of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

In order to diagnose Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), the treating physician will first take a detailed history and physical examination and then do a series of tests.

Medical History: During the history taking, the physician will ask the individual about history of any medical condition that can predispose that individual to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). The physician will also inquire as to presence of any cardiac conditions which can cause fluids to build up in the lungs.

Physical Exam: After history taking, the treating physician will then conduct a physical examination. The physician will listen for any abnormal breathing pattern using a stethoscope. The physician will also observe for any signs of fluid accumulation in the body. The physician will also look for bluish discoloration of the skin consistent with low oxygen levels.

Diagnostic Tests: The following tests are done for confirmatory diagnosis of Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS):

  • Arterial Blood Gas (ABG): This test will give the level of oxygen present in the blood, a low level of which will point to ARDS.
  • Chest X-ray: This will be done to look for presence of fluid build up in the lungs.
  • Complete Blood Count and Blood Cultures: This will be done to look for the underlying cause of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
  • Sputum Culture: This can also help identify the underlying cause of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).

Treatment For Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

To treat Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a hospital setting is required, basically an Intensive Care Unit. The treatments given basically are for improving oxygen levels in the blood and giving supportive care. Some of the treatments used for treating Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) are:

Oxygen Therapy: This therapy is done for improving oxygen levels in the body. To begin with this is done using a mask which is fit in the mouth and oxygen is given externally. If there is no improvement in the levels with this technique then oxygen is given through a breathing tube. This breathing tube will be connected to a ventilator which supports breathing thus improving oxygen levels in the blood. This will be continued until the affected individual is able to breathe on his own accord.

Supportive Care: Supportive care means treatment approaches designed to relieve symptoms, avoid complications, and improve quality of life. The supportive measures used for treatment of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) are:

  • Medications for pain relief
  • Closed monitoring of heart and lung function
  • Nutritional Support
  • Treating infections
  • Preventing blood clots
  • Administration of fluids

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: August 4, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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