What Is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome? Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment

Acute respiratory distress syndrome can cause organ damage and complications. Know the symptoms, causes and risk factors to prevent this condition.

Puru Bansal
Written by: Puru BansalPublished at: Jan 20, 2022Updated at: Jan 20, 2022
What Is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome? Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment

Respiratory condition can cause various problems and can have a severe affect on our health. With rising cases of respiratory problems and diseases, it is important to know about each condition to differentiate and have an idea about problems you are facing. Acute respiratory diseases can cause complication, but they can also be treated by proper medical aid. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome is a similar respiratory condition that causes lower levels or oxygen and fills your lungs with fluid. In order to know more about this disease, we have Dr. Anuj Aggarwal, Head Consultant and Senior Pulmonologist at Ivory Hospital, Greater Noida to brief us about this lung condition.

What is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

This is a serious respiratory condition that has an adverse affect on your health. It can make you air sacs filled with fluid and hence cause severe complication. Acute respiratory distress syndrome can cause people to have shortness of breath and lung related issues that can lead to life threatening complications. Due to low amount of oxygen and increase of carbon dioxide in the blood stream, it can affect many functions to stops working. This respiratory condition can also lead a person to organ failure and death. Therefore it is important to recognize its symptoms to prevent yourself from serious complications for this respiratory syndrome.


This condition however does not happen just by itself. According to doctor, usually people that are severely ill or are going through a trauma can experience symptoms of this syndrome. Hospitalized people tend to be at a greater risk of having acute respiratory distress syndrome. 

Symptoms of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Since ARDS is a life threatening condition, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of these respiratory problems and speak to a medical expert as soon as you notice these symptoms-

  • Low blood pressure
  • Dry or hacking cough
  • Having muscle fatigue or muscle weakness in general 
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased or rapid breathing 
  • Discolored skin or nails
  • Fever which is persistent
  • Headaches
  • Fast pulse rate
  • Mental confusion and irritation


What Causes Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

Acute distress syndrome can be caused because of damage to the blood vessels in the lungs. Because of the damage of the vessels, the fluid leaks from the air sacks of the lungs which causes this illness. The fluid blocks the pathway of oxygen entering the lungs and thus causes shortness of breath and respiratory problems. The carbon dioxide is removed from the blood because of continuous shortage of oxygen in the lungs; number of body functions gets affected. 

This process can occur due to the following conditions-

1. In case you inhale toxic substances that harm your lungs such as chemicals, salt water, smoke and vomit. It can cause an immediate effect on your lungs.

2. The other cause can be because of having blood infection in the system. As a result of blood infection, the blood oxygen gets affected and causes respiratory distress syndrome.

3. Because of suffering from pneumonia which is also a respiratory disease causing severe infection in the lungs.

4. It can be because of chest or head injury. Because of the injury due to accident or strong impact, it can take you trauma and impact your physical and mental health.

5. Due to overdose of sedatives or excessive intake of antidepressants, especially tricyclic ones

Also Read- 7 Early Warning Signs Of Asthma

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Risk Factors

There are also a number of risk factors that you should be aware of in order to prevent yourself from falling for this condition. Acute respiratory distress syndrome can be developed because of these risk factors-

  • Being of age older than 65 years
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Having a history of alcohol abuse or cigarette smoking
  • People that have gone through a toxic shock
  • Have history of liver failure
  • Are addicted to alcohol or have gone through alcohol abuse


How can Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome be treated?

There are a few ways in which complication of ARDS can be prevented and the person suffering through this can be cured. Here are the following ways-

1. Giving Oxygen

One of the first thing that happens during distress syndrome is that oxygen levels go down which can cause organ failure. Therefore in order to reduce the risk oxygen is very important. After giving an oxygen mask, the doctor uses mechanical ventilation too the lungs. This helps to reduce the fluid in the air sacs and treat the patient.

2. Fluid management Treatment

Fluid in the lungs is the main cause of concern. Therefore management of fluid intake can ensure adequate fluid balance in the body. This provides balance and does not let fluid get build up in the lungs. However, there are still chances in this method that fluid goes into other organs or heart which can also lead to attack. 

Also Read- Which Health Problems Can Cause Congestion? Know By Expert

3. Medications

Medications are a very safe method to reduce respiratory problems and control ARDS symptoms. Sometimes, it can have few side-effects but that does not cause any major issues with the health status of the person. These medications are often prescribed for acute respiratory distress syndrome-

  1. Blood thinners to prevent clots formation in the lungs or legs
  2. Taking antibiotics to treat the major cause of infection
  3. Pain relief tables in order to get relief from headache and pain in the chest

4. Pulmonary rehabilitation

Treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome can also be done through pulmonary rehabilitation. This is recovery process that aids in increasing the lung capacity and lung strength of the person. Pulmonary rehabilitation can be done through proper exercise, training, lifestyle changes, dietary changes and different aids that can support your recovery process. Treatment of ARDS needs to be done as soon as possible to avoid any complications. This method is usually applied, when the respiratory syndrome is diagnosed in the early stages and can be controlled through various remedies.

Picture Credits- pexels.com, shutterstock.com