What is adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)?
Adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), also called acute respiratory distress syndrome, is a type of lung (pulmonary) failure that may result from any disease that causes large amounts of fluid to collect in the lungs. Adult respiratory distress syndrome is a breakdown in the function of the lungs that comes on suddenly. With this condition, there is severe
inflammation in the lungs. This inflammation reduces the lungs' ability to take up oxygen. It may cause lung or respiratory failure. Although called "adult," ARDS can also occur in children.
ARDS is usually brought on by some other serious condition in the body, such as trauma or infection, that directly or indirectly injures the lung. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a type of severe, acute lung dysfunction affecting all or most of both lungs that occurs as a result of illness or injury. Although it is sometimes called adult respiratory distress syndrome, it may also affect children. Major symptoms may include breathing difficulties (dyspnea), rapid breathing (tachypnea), excessively deep and rapid breathing (hyperventilation) and insufficient levels of oxygen in the circulating blood (hypoxemia). ARDS may develop in conjunction with widespread infection in the body (sepsis) or as a result of pneumonia, trauma, shock, severe burns, aspiration of food into the lung, multiple blood transfusions, and inhalation of toxic fumes, among other things. It usually develops within 24 to 48 hours after the original illness or injury and is considered a medical emergency. It may progress to involvement of other organs.
ARDS is a syndrome, not a specific disease. It can develop quite suddenly in persons whose lungs have been perfectly normal. Very often ARDS is a true medical emergency. The basic fault is a breakdown of the barrier, or membrane, that normally keeps fluid from leaking out of the small blood vessels of the lung into the breathing sacs (the alveoli). A variety of underlying, unrelated conditions, from blood-borne infections to major trauma, can cause the characteristic inflammation and accumulation of fluid (edema) in the alveoli (see causes). ARDS is a life-threatening condition in which inflammation of the lungs and accumulation of fluid in the air sacs (alveoli) leads to low blood oxygen levels. While it shares some similarities with infant respiratory distress syndrome, its causes and treatments are different.