Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Overview of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

ARDS Meaning in Urdu

یہ پھیپھڑوں کی ایک جان لیوا بیماری ہے جس کی وجہ سے پھیپھڑوں میں سیال خارج ہونا شروع ہو جاتا ہے۔ جن لوگوں کو یہ بیماری لاحق ہوتی ہے ان کی زیادہ تر موت واقع ہو جاتی ہے۔ اس مرض کی وجہ سے سانس لینے میں مشکلات کا سامنا کرنا پڑتا ہے اور جسم میں آکسیجن بھی داخل نہیں ہو پاتی۔ اس بیماری کی بنیادی علامات میں سانس لینے میں شدید مشکلات، تیزی سے سانس لینا، بلڈ پریشر میں کمی، اور شدید تھکاوٹ شامل ہے۔ جو لوگ زیادہ مقدار میں باقاعدگی سے الکوحل پیتے ہیں ان میں اس بیماری کے خطرات زیادہ ہوتے ہیں۔

Respiratory syndromes are pathological conditions that affect the organs and their tissues. The most affected is the respiratory tract. They can be mild or self-limiting for an individual. 

ARDS or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome also known as (بالغ سانس کی تکلیف ) is an inflammation due to a lung injury that allows fluid to leak into the lungs. The fluid affecting the lungs builds up in sacs known as the alveoli. The fluid restricts the lungs from filling with air, which causes a lower oxygen supply to the bloodstream.

ARDS happens in people who are already being treated for an injury or have faced trauma. Symptoms show within a short period (a few hours to a few days).

ARDS has a high mortality rate. The severity of the illness and age acts as an accelerator for the disease. Since the survival rate is so low, those who do survive to suffer from long-lasting damage to their lungs.

Prevalence of ARDS

According to several studies, 

“This syndrome is among the major causes of morbidity and mortality in intensive care units (ICUs) worldwide.”

The mortality rate of ARDS in Pakistan is 28 percent. The mortality rate is high in older patients. 

Signs and Symptoms of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Symptoms are dependent on the severity and the cause of the syndrome. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath (severe)
  • Unusual rapid and labored breathing
  • Extreme fatigue and tiredness
  • Hypotension
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish fingernails and lips due to low oxygen levels

Types of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Causes of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

ARDS is caused by the leaking of fluid from the smallest blood vessels into the lungs and therefore the alveoli. A protective membrane separates the blood vessels and air sacs, but due to trauma or injury, the membrane is damaged.

The underlying causes of ARDS are as follows:

  1. Sepsis: It is the most common cause, which involves a widespread bloodstream infection.
  2. Pneumonia: Pneumonia can cause damage to the lungs.
  3. Trauma or Injury: A blunt trauma or injury to the head chest or any other major organ can lead to ARDS.
  4. Drug Overdose: It can lead to ARDS.
  5. Inhalation Injury: Inhaling harmful substances in high concentrations.
  6. COVID-19: People who suffer from COVID-19 are at a high risk of developing ARDS.
  7. Other causes include massive blood transfusions and pancreatitis.

Risk Factors of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

The following are the risk factors of ARDS:

  • The age especially people who are in their sixties 
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Tobacco smoke 
  • History of Alcohol Misuse 

Health Complications of ARDS

Since ARDS develops due to trauma or injury, the chances of other health complications increase as well. The most common complications include:



With the help of the following preventive strategies the chances of ARDS can be lowered:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages 
  • In case of trauma or severe injury, make sure to seek immediate medical assistance
  • Make sure to stay vaccinated for flu as well as for pneumonia 


The diagnosis of ARDS is based on the physical exam, chest X-ray, and oxygen levels. The following tests are done for a complete diagnosis:

  • Chest X-ray: An X-ray will reveal the level of fluid in the lungs and an enlarged heart.
  • CT Scan: A CT Scan will provide detailed imaging of the heart and lungs.
  • Blood Tests: These are done to check the oxygen level of the blood and any sign of infection or sepsis.
  • Echocardiogram: The ECG test will reveal any problems related to the heart and its functions.


Treatment of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome | When to Consult a Doctor

The first step in treatment is to improve the oxygen level of the blood.

  1. Oxygen

Oxygen levels are increased via two likely methods:

  • Ventilator: A ventilator will push air into the lungs, forcing the fluid out of the alveoli.
  • Supplemental oxygen: Oxygen is given through a mask temporarily.
  1. Intravenous Fluids

Since the body is going through so much, IV fluids are given to keep up with the hydration. It is necessary to keep a check on the fluid levels, so as not to increase the fluid buildup in the lungs or to lead the body into shock.

  1. Medications

Medications are given to individuals to:

  • Minimize pain
  • Prevent infections
  • Prevent blood clot formation
  • Sedate the patient
  • Minimize ulcers and gastric reflux

Long-term Outlook

ARDS causes many health complications that require time to recover from. Since an ARDS individual has breathing difficulties, it can be tough to breathe freely without machines. Support is needed by their family and peers to help them cope with the outcome of the disease.

ARDS is a serious and life-threatening condition. As soon as you feel the symptoms, ensure to get yourself checked and treated by a qualified pulmonologist