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ARDS is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition of the lungs that prevents a sufficient amount of oxygen from entering into the lungs and blood. Because oxygenation of the blood is essential for many of the bodys organs to work, when the blood cannot secure enough oxygen, this condition can quickly become life-threatening. Many of the people who are suffering from ARDS are already being treated in the hospital for another serious condition such as pneumonia. Other names for ARDS is acute lung injury, non-cardiac pulmonary edema or stiff, shock or wet lung.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of ARDS

ARDS occurs when the tiny blood vessels within the lungs are leaking more air than they are meant to into the sacs of air. This, over time, will prevent the lungs from being able to fill with air sufficiently, so less oxygen than necessary will be able to travel into the bloodstream. Injuries, infections and other conditions can cause this to occur. Some of these conditions include pneumonia, sepsis, head injury, chest injury, aspirating stomach contents and severe bleeding. The people who are most at risk for developing ARDS are individuals that possess injuries, illnesses or conditions that can injure the lungs either directly or indirectly. Septic shock, which entails an infection throughout the body, trauma to the body and lung transplants are also potential causes for this condition.

People who are suffering from ARDS are dealing with a serious breathing complication and need to be treated in an intensive care unit. Not only must breathing support be provided, but the physician must also get to the bottom of the condition that caused the ARDS in the first place in order to prevent it from continuing. Other complications include infections such as pneumonia, collapsed lung and blood clots.

Signs, Symptoms and Tests of ARDS

Most of the signs and symptoms linked to ARDS relate to an inability to breathe properly. Some symptoms that occur may relate directly to the condition that caused the acute respiratory distress syndrome to develop. Difficulty swallowing or breathing, rapid or abnormal breathing and low blood pressure are the most common symptoms of this condition. Shortness of breath and organ failure is also common symptoms for ARDS. In order for a physician to diagnose this condition, the first step is typically to listen to the chest using a stethoscope, which will reveal the existence of fluid in the lungs by denoting crackling and other abnormal breath sounds in the lungs. There are several other tests that are viable for the diagnosis of ARDS, including arterial blood gas, CBC and other blood tests, bronchoscopy, X-ray of the chest, sputum analysis and echo-cardiogram. The echo-cardiogram is used in order to rule out CHF or congestive heart failure, which can appear similarly to ARDS in terms of symptoms.

Treatment, Drugs and Prevention of ARDS

People who are suffering from ARDS are dealing with a serious breathing complication and need to be treated in an intensive care unit. Not only must breathing support be provided, but the physician must also determine what caused the ARDS in order to prevent it from continuing. The most common treatment for ARDS is called PEEP, positive end expiratory pressure, which is continuous pressure and oxygen delivered to the damaged lungs in high dosages. Patients also typically must be sedated while this equipment is used.Treatment for ARDS begins by improving oxygen levels in the blood. Physicians recommend supplemental oxygen by way of a mask for mild symptoms and mechanical ventilation (PEEP or PAP) for more severe symptoms. Physicians will manage and monitor the level of intravenous fluids, and may also prescribe medication to minimize gastric reflux, prevent blood clots, relieve discomfort and pain and prevent infections