Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
(ARDS; Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome; Non-cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a form of severe lung damage. It happens in people who are very ill or hurt. Most people will be under care in a hospital. It can cause death.
ARDS is caused by small blood vessels that leak fluid into the small air sacs of the lungs. The fluid in the sacs blocks oxygen from passing into the body. ARDS may be caused by direct injury.
This can happen in people with:
Other indirect injuries that may lead to ARDS are:
The health problems above raise your risk of ARDS.
Other things that may raise your risk are:
Signs often start within 24 to 48 hours. They will also worsen with time. It may happen slowly or quickly.
You may have:
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. An exam will be done. If you can’t tell the doctor how you feel, then symptoms and test results will be used.
You will have blood tests. They will look for low oxygen levels, infection, and signs of heart failure.
Pictures will be taken of your chest. This can be done with:
If you are able, talk with the doctor about the best plan for you. The goals are to:
Options to help you breathe are:
Medicines may be used to relax you during these treatments. Oxygen and fluid levels will also be watched closely.
ARDS can’t be prevented.
American Lung Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated July 19, 2018. Accessed August 28, 2018.
Bosma KJ, Lewis JF. Emerging therapies for treatment of acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Expert Opin Emgerg Drugs. 2007;12(3): 461-477.
Explore ARDS. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed August 28, 2018.
Jain R, DaiNogare A. Pharmacological therapy for acute respiratory distress syndrome. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006;81(2):205-212.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 8/28/2018
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