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Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a serious lung problem. Fluid builds up in the lungs, causing breathing failure and low oxygen levels in the blood. ARDS is life-threatening, because it keeps organs like the brain and kidneys from getting the oxygen they need to work. It can also put a strain on the heart.
Most people with ARDS will be treated in an intensive care unit (ICU).
Doctors don't always know why someone gets this lung problem. It occurs most often in people who are being treated for another serious illness or injury. Most of the time, people who get ARDS are already in the hospital for another reason.
Many things can cause ARDS, such as:
People with ARDS have severe trouble breathing. They feel short of breath and breathe fast.
ARDS can get worse quickly.
The doctor will diagnose ARDS based on a medical examination and other tests. These tests may include:
ARDS is treated in the ICU. Treatment is focused on:
Some people recover completely from ARDS, but it can take a few years. Others will have long-term health problems such as breathing problems and depression.
It may be scary to see relatives or loved ones surrounded by machines in the ICU. Know that the ICU staff is highly trained to care for people with ARDS. They will do everything they can to help. You can ask them any questions you might have. You can also ask them about counselling and support.
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Current as of: June 9, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
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