Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome ARDS, Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Complications

Body Health
What is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome? or commonly abbreviated as ARDS is a condition that arises when fluid collects in the organs of the alveoli, namely small and elastic air sacs found in the lungs. The fluid will usually seep from small blood vessels. This collection of fluids can cause the lungs not enough to fill with air and consequently the supply of oxygen to the bloodstream becomes reduced. This will result in some organs, such as the brain and kidneys, being unable to work normally as usual or can even stop functioning because they don't get enough oxygen.

ARDS is usually experienced by people who have suffered a critical illness or suffered a severe injury. Most ARDS causes death, although there are also patients who can recover completely. The risk of patient death depends on the age and severity of ARDS.

Symptoms of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Symptoms experienced by patients with ARDS can vary, depending on the cause and severity. Some symptoms that might be felt by ARDS sufferers are:

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome ARDS

  • Breath becomes very short.
  • Shortness of breath and fast breathing frequency.
  • Blood pressure drops.
  • Decreased consciousness and feeling very tired.
  • Many sweats.
  • Dizzy.
  • Bluish lips or nails.
  • A dry cough.
  • Fever.
  • Fast pulse.

Causes of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

The cause of ARDS is the seeping of fluid from the capillary arteries (the smallest blood vessels) in the lungs into the alveoli, where blood should be supplied with oxygen. Under normal conditions, blood vessel membranes will keep the fluid inside. The presence of a serious injury or illness can cause leakage of fluid from the blood vessel wall. These injuries and diseases include:

  • Sepsis.
  • Inhaling harmful substances, such as concentrated smoke or chemical vapors.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Choking vomit or near-drowning condition.
  • Severe pneumonia.
  • Injuries to the head, chest, or other body parts.
  • Burns.
  • An overdose of sleeping pills or antidepressants.
  • Receiving a blood transfusion with a large volume of blood.

Some of the factors that increase a person's risk of developing ARDS are:

  • Alcohol Dependence.
  • Aged over 65 years.
  • Smoker.
  • Suffering from chronic lung disease.

Diagnosis of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

At present, there is no specific inspection method for detecting ARDS. Diagnosis of patients suspected of ARDS is based on physical examination, chest X-ray, and examination of blood gas analysis of arteries to see oxygen levels in the blood. Blood tests can also be performed to see anemia or infection. In addition to X-ray photos, doctors can do a CT scan to diagnose ARDS.

Heart tests may also be recommended for ARDS sufferers because heart problems and ARDS have the same symptoms. Some heart tests that can be done are:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG), to see electrical activity in the heart.
  • Echocardiography, to detect disorders of the structure and function of the patient's heart.

Treatment for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Some steps doctors can take to treat ARDS are:

  • Giving oxygen. The doctor will increase the level of oxygen in the patient's bloodstream by giving extra oxygen through a nose hose or mask.
  • Breath aids or ventilators. The ventilator helps provide additional air pressure to the patient's lungs.
  • Regulate fluid intake. The doctor will regulate the amount of infusion fluid and nutrients that enter the patient's body, according to the results of clinical trials and the general condition of the patient.
  • Giving medicines. The doctor will provide medication to prevent and treat infections, relieve pain and discomfort, prevent blood clots in the legs and lungs, and minimize acid reflux and stomach contents. If needed given sleeping pills, especially for patients who use breathing apparatus.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation. This action is needed to strengthen the respiratory system and increase lung capacity during recovery from ARDS.

Complications of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

ARDS patients are at risk of suffering from complications while undergoing treatment. Some of these complications include:

  • Blood clotting. Lying continuously can increase the risk of blood clots, especially in the deep vein in the legs (deep vein thrombosis).
  • Lung collapse (pneumothorax). The use of a ventilator serves to provide additional air pressure to increase the flow of oxygen in the blood. Ventilators also help cleanse fluid in the alveoli. But the use of ventilator risks making small tears in the air sacs of the lungs, making the air in the lungs pass through the small hole and cause the lungs to collapse.
  • Infection. To connect the lungs with the machine (ventilator), put a pipe or hose into the throat until it passes through the vocal cords. This hose is a foreign object to the body that risks injuring and irritating the respiratory tract, as well as being a place for bacterial growth.
  • Pulmonary fibrosis. Pulmonary fibrosis will cause the lungs to become inelastic and ultimately difficult to drain oxygen.

Some health problems are also at risk for ARDS patients who have been cured, such as:

  • Respiratory disorders (usual shortness of breath), until you need extra oxygen when returning home.
  • Depression.
  • Impaired thinking and memory due to the brain had a shortage of oxygen supply.
  • Weakening of muscles due to too long lying down and not being used.
  • Feel weak and tired.

Prevention of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

There are a number of things a person can do to reduce the risk of suffering from ARDS, namely:

  • Stop smoking and avoid cigarette smoke.
  • Stop consuming alcoholic beverages.
  • Routinely get flu vaccines every year and pneumonia vaccines every five years to reduce the risk of lung infections.


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