ACUTE RESPIRATORY DISTRESS SYNDROME (ARDS) is an acute emergency complication that causes fluid to accumulate in the lungs and disrupting oxygen flow to the organs for their functioning. It is usually a complication of injury or infection going on in the lungs.
Symptoms of ARDS develop pretty quickly within a few hours to a few days depending on the age of the patient and extent of injury or infection.
WHAT CAUSES ACUTE RESPIRATORY DISTRESS SYNDROME (ARDS):
People who suffer from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome are usually critically ill and already hospitalized. Normally, a protective layer exists between the alveolar membrane and blood vessels, so as to keep the fluid in the vessels.
In case of severe infection, injuries or sepsis, this barrier is broken and fluid leaks from the blood vessels into the alveoli.
The underlying cause for this are:
- Mechanical injury to the chest wall or head injury: Injury to the chest wall causes direct damage to the lungs affecting the oxygen exchange. Injury to the head may affect the area of the brain which controls breathing.
- Sepsis : Severe infection in the blood causes widespread inflammatory reaction all throughout the body including the lungs. The inflammatory reaction causes fluid leakage from blood vessels.
- Severe pneumonia: A pneumonia which is not responsive to treatment or affecting all lobes of the lung can cause ARDS
- Inhalation of harmful substances or toxic fumes or aspiration of vomit or water, as in drowning.
- Massive blood transfusion
- Overdose of drugs
- Inflammation of pancreas (pancreatitis)
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ARDS:
- Severe dyspnea or shortness of breath
- Laboured breathing
- Confusion or unresponsive state
- Headache, dizziness
- Tachypnea i.e rapid breathing
- Tachycardia i.e rapid heart rate
- Cyanosis i.e blue lips, fingers, tongue
- Chest pain
RISK FACTORS FOR ARDS:
We still don’t have a definitive reason why some patients develop ARDS and others don’t. But some of the risk factors may predispose a patient to develop it.
- Heavy smoker or alcoholic.
- Using oxygen for an existing lung condition
- Genetic predisposition
- Recent high risk surgery
WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS OF ACUTE RESPIRATORY DISTRESS SYNDROME (ARDS) :
- Lung collapse or Pneumothorax: Treatment of ARDS is done by ventilating the patient which supplies oxygen and forces fluid out of the lungs. But the continuous pressure may force air out through a hole in the lungs causing air to accumulate outside the lungs and collapsing it.
- Pulmonary fibrosis : Injury to the lungs causes inflammation and fibrosis which cause breathing difficulties
- Infection : This may occur through the ventilator
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Organ damage: If hypoxia is prolonged, oxygen supply is cut off from the organs which results in irreversible damage
- Breathing difficulties : Scarring of lung tissue causes a part of the lung to become solidified and unable to perform it’s function. This can cause breathing difficulties for life.
- Blood clots and pulmonary embolism