In this Article
- ARDS facts*
- What is ARDS?
- ARDS overview
- What are other names for ARDS?
- What causes ARDS?
- Who is at risk for ARDS?
- What are the signs and symptoms of ARDS?
- How is ARDS diagnosed?
- How is ARDS treated?
- What is the prognoisis of ARDS?
What is ARDS?
ARDS, or acute respiratory distress syndrome, is a lung condition that leads to low oxygen levels in the blood. ARDS can be life threatening. This is because your body's organs, such as the kidneys and brain, need oxygen-rich blood to work properly.
ARDS usually occurs in people who are very ill with another disease or who have major injuries. Most people are already in the hospital when they develop ARDS.
To understand ARDS, it helps to understand how the lungs work. When you breathe, air passes through your nose and mouth into your windpipe. The air then travels to your lungs' air sacs. These sacs are called alveoli (al-VEE-uhl-eye).
Small blood vessels called capillaries run through the walls of the air sacs. Oxygen passes from the air sacs into the capillaries and then into the bloodstream. Blood carries the oxygen to all parts of the body, including the body's organs.
In ARDS, infections, injuries, or other conditions cause the lung's capillaries to leak more fluid than normal into the air sacs. This prevents the lungs from filling with air and moving enough oxygen into the bloodstream.
When this happens, the body's organs don't get the oxygen they need. Without oxygen, the organs may not work properly or may stop working completely.
Most people who develop ARDS are in the hospital for other serious health problems. Rarely, people who aren't hospitalized have health problems that lead to ARDS, such as severe pneumonia.
If you have trouble breathing, call your doctor right away. If you have severe shortness of breath, call 9–1–1.
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