Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a condition where 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. This deprives your organs of the oxygen they need to function. Many people who develop ARDS don’t survive.
Causes of Acute Respiratory Disease
The most common underlying causes of ARDS include:
- Sepsis. 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. Severe cases of pneumonia usually affect all five lobes of the lungs.
- Head, chest or other major injury. Accidents, such as falls or car crashes, can directly damage the lungs or the portion of the brain that controls breathing.
Symptoms of acute respiratory distress syndrome
The signs and symptoms of ARDS can vary in intensity, depending on its cause and severity, as well as the presence of underlying heart or lung disease. They include:
- Severe shortness of breath
- Labored and unusually rapid breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Confusion and extreme tiredness
Diagnosis of acute respiratory distress syndrome in India
There’s no specific test to identify ARDS. The diagnosis is based on the physical exam, chest X-ray and oxygen levels and by ruling out other diseases and conditions — for example, certain heart problems — that can produce similar symptoms.
- Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray can reveal which parts of your lungs and how much of the lungs have fluid in them and whether your heart is enlarged.
- Computerized tomography (CT). A CT scan combines X-ray images taken from many different directions into cross-sectional views of internal organs.
A test using blood from an artery in your wrist can measure your oxygen level. Other types of blood tests can check for signs of infection or anemia. If your doctor suspects that you have a lung infection, secretions from your airway may be tested to determine the cause of the infection.
Because the signs and symptoms of ARDS are similar to those of certain heart problems, your doctor may recommend heart tests such as:
- Electrocardiogram. This painless test tracks the electrical activity in your heart. It involves attaching several wired sensors to your body.
- Echocardiogram. A sonogram of the heart, this test can reveal problems with the structures and the function of your heart.
Treatment for acute respiratory diseases in India
The first goal in treating ARDS is to improve the levels of oxygen in your blood. To get more oxygen into your bloodstream, your doctor will likely use:
- Supplemental oxygen. For milder symptoms or as a temporary measure, oxygen may be delivered through a mask that fits tightly over your nose and mouth.
- Mechanical ventilation. Most people with ARDS will need the help of a machine to breathe. A mechanical ventilator pushes air into your lungs and forces some of the fluid out of the air sacs.
Carefully managing the amount of intravenous fluids is crucial. Too much fluid can increase fluid buildup in the lungs. Too little fluid can put a strain on your heart and other organs and lead to shock.
Medication for acute respiratory distress syndrome
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
However, please do not self-medicate. Please consult your doctor before taking any medicine or line of treatment.
Did You Know!
ARDS usually comes after a major illness or injury, and it is highly likely that an ARDS patient would be already hospitalized for some other treatment.
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