Skip to Content

Ards (acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome)

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)?

ARDS is a type of acute respiratory failure caused by fluid buildup in your lungs. The fluid prevents your lungs from filling with oxygen. Your blood is not able to get the oxygen it needs to carry to your body. Organs such as your kidneys can shut down from a lack of oxygen. ARDS is life-threatening and immediate treatment is needed.

The Lungs

What causes ARDS?

  • An illness, such as pneumonia, sepsis (a blood infection), or pancreatitis
  • An injury to the chest or the part of the brain that controls breathing, or severe burns
  • Inhaling vomited food or liquids or harmful gases, such as chlorine, or near-drowning
  • A drug overdose, multiple transfusions, or a lung injury from a transfusion

What are the signs and symptoms of ARDS?

Signs and symptoms usually start within 72 hours after injury to the lungs. You may have any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast, difficult breathing
  • Extreme fatigue and confusion
  • Low blood pressure

How is ARDS diagnosed?

You may need any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests may show if you have an infection.
  • A blood gases test is also called an arterial blood gas, or ABG. Blood is taken from an artery (blood vessel) and tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The results can tell healthcare providers how well your lungs are working.
  • A chest x-ray or ultrasound may be done to check your lungs and heart. Healthcare providers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection, such as pneumonia. A chest x-ray may also show signs of ARDS.
  • A CT scan may show the cause of your ARDS. You may be given contrast liquid to help the problem show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is ARDS treated?

You may need any of the following:

  • A ventilator is a machine that will support your breathing and give oxygen while your lungs heal. You will have an endotracheal tube (ET tube) in your mouth or nose that will attach to a ventilator.
  • Medicines may be given that cause your muscles to relax and allow the ventilator to work for you. You may also be given medicines to treat an infection. Medicines may be given to decrease swelling in your lungs and other parts of your body.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Ards (acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes

Mayo Clinic Reference

Hide