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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome
      Category : Health Centers > Respiratory System (Lungs and Breathing)

Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Alternate Names : Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, ARDS

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Adult respiratory distress syndrome, which is also called ARDS, 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.

What is going on in the body?

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. When a person has ARDS, the lungs and tiny blood vessels around the lungs become inflamed and swollen. This inflammation interferes with the lungs' ability to function properly. The lungs have a hard time getting oxygen into the bloodstream and removing carbon dioxide from the blood. As inflammation increases, fluid can leak from the blood vessels into the lungs. As fluid builds up and inflammation increases, the lungs become stiff and may completely fail to work. .

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

More than 30 percent of people who have sepsis, which is a life-threatening infection of the bloodstream, will develop ARDS. Some of the other causes of ARDS are:

  • blood transfusions of large amounts of blood
  • burns
  • drug overdose
  • infection of the lungs, such as bacterial or viral pneumonia
  • inhaling large amounts of smoke
  • inhaling toxic fumes, such as those from chlorine or ammonia
  • inhaling the contents of the stomach, known as aspiration pneumonia
  • near drowning
  • serious inflammation in other parts of the body, such as acute pancreatitis
  • prolonged or severe shock
  • surgery, such as cardiopulmonary bypass
  • severe trauma to other parts of the body
  • severe trauma to the lungs, such as from a crush injury to the chest


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    Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Reviewer: Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 10/07/02

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