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 Are the Signs and Symptoms of ARDS?
The first signs and symptoms of ARDS are feeling like you can't get enough air into your lungs, rapid breathing, and low oxygen levels in the blood.
Other signs and symptoms depend on the cause of the ARDS. They may occur before ARDS develops. For example, if pneumonia is causing ARDS, you may have a cough and fever before you feel short of breath.
Sometimes, people who have ARDS develop signs and symptoms such as low blood pressure, confusion, and extreme tiredness. This may mean that the body's organs, such as the kidneys and heart, aren't getting enough oxygen-rich blood.
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.
How is ARDS Diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose ARDS based on your medical history, a physical exam, and results from tests.
Your doctor will ask about conditions you may have or have recently had that could lead to ARDS. For a list of these conditions, see "Who Is At Risk for ARDS?"
Your doctor also will ask whether you have heart problems, such as heart failure, which can cause fluid to build up in your lungs.
ARDS may cause abnormal breathing sounds, such as crackling. Your doctor will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope to hear these sounds. He or she also will listen to your heart and look for signs of extra fluid in other parts of your body. Extra fluid may mean you have heart or kidney problems.
Your doctor will look for a bluish color on your skin and lips. A bluish color means your blood has a low level of oxygen. This is a possible sign of ARDS.
Diagnostic tests are used to find the cause of your symptoms. You may have ARDS or another condition that causes similar symptoms.
The first tests done are:
- An arterial blood gas test. This blood test shows the oxygen level in your blood. A low level of oxygen in the blood may be a sign of ARDS.
- Chest x ray. This test is used to take pictures of the structures in your chest, such as your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. It can show whether you have extra fluid in your lungs.
- Blood tests, such as a complete blood count, blood chemistries, and blood cultures. These tests help find the cause of ARDS, such as an infection.
- Sputum cultures. This test looks at the spit you've coughed up from your lungs. It can help find the cause of an infection.
- Other Tests
Other tests used to diagnose ARDS include:
- Chest computed tomography (to-MOG-rah-fee) scan, or chest CT scan. This test uses a computer to create detailed pictures of your lungs. It may show lung problems, such as fluid in the lungs, signs of pneumonia, or a lung tumor.
- Heart tests that look for signs of heart failure. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. This condition can cause fluid to build up in your lungs.
Next: How is ARDS treated?
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