What is the full form of ARDS ?

What is ARDS?

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS is a grievous lung disorder that occurs by accumulating fluid in the small elastic air sacs or alveolar chambers in the lungs. Several factors lead to ARDS and they involve pneumonia, sepsis or trauma. Inhalation of toxic chemicals like those working in asbestos factories are more prone to ARDS. This disease is much more predominant amongst the aged and less susceptible persons. ARDS was first reported in the 1960s, but the disease was not officially identified and named until 1967.


The severity of the symptoms of ARDS depends on intensity, its major cause and acuteness along with persons having heart or lung disease. They include −

  • Severe breathlessness

  • Laboured and unusually rapid breathing

  • Lowered blood pressure

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Faster heart rate

  • Sudden Chest pain

  • Dry cough mostly in the night.


Acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS is identified based on the compatibility of certain symptoms and detection on physical examinations and diagnostic tests.Following symptoms must be present in a person diagnosed with ARDS.

  • Fast breathing

  • Breathlessness

  • Oxygen depreciation as detected by pulse oximeter

  • Abnormal findings with Chest X-ray or CT scan showing pulmonary oedema can indicate ARDS.

Some additional clinical tests are also run to diagnose or confirm the presence of ARDS and its major cause. The tests may include −

  • Other Blood tests to examine the presence of any infections or other underlying conditions.

  • Bronchoscopy is conducted using a very thin, flexible tube with a camera and light which remains incorporated through the nose and mouth for examining the air passage.

  • By undergoing lung biopsy, where a small tissue sample is scraped out from the lungs for examining the tissues for malignancy.


Acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS is a serious problem of the lungs when it becomes inflamed due to fluid accumulation, leading to deprivation in oxygen level.The treatment strategies of ARDS prioritises on the external support of oxygen for treating the exact cause of the disease −

  • Oxygen therapy makes use of face masks, nasal cannula and mechanical ventilation to provide adequate supply of oxygen.

  • Mechanical ventilation − The patient is also kept on ventilation if he/she is facing severe breathlessness.

  • Medications − Certain medications are also prescribed for reducing the inflammation in the lungs like corticosteroids or some antioxidants are provided to prevent further lung damage.

  • Fluid management − The excessive fluid must be removed from the lungs for reducing the pressure in the lungs with the help of lasix treatment.

  • Nutrition − The patient is often provided the nutritional requirements through a feeding tube for maintaining a healthy diet.

Risk Factors

The major risk factors of ARDS involve infection,exposure to the environment, lifeleading, or any specific medical condition. The Risk factors depend on the age, basic health condition, and proper health care routine.Following are the major risk factors that can be predetermined −

  • InfectionInfections are the common source of ARDS. The most common pathogens that spread the infection include respiratory syncytial virus and SARS-CoV-2, which caused covid-19 pandemic.Some of the other infections include-Pneumonia,sepsis(Blood infection caused by bacteria),Uterine infection in the mother, which relatively affects the newborn's lungs as well.

  • Environment − Exposure to air pollution is one of the major risk factors of ARDS.

  • Lifestyle habits − Unhealthy habits can harm the condition of the lungs and enhance the risk of ARDS. Some of the unhealthy habits include-regular alcohol consumption,intake of powerful drugs,smoking etc.

  • Family history and genetics − ARDS is an inheritable disease and is considered to be present in the generation if any one of the family members had past history of the same.


Acute respiratory distress syndrome is a very severe and a life-threatening disorder that can affect individuals of any age group. The exact extensiveness of ARDS is difficult to judge, as the exact number of cases are not reported properly and remain undiagnosed. Statistics say that ARDS affects 1,50,000 people every year in the United States alone.ARDS affects people with low immunity or with underlying cardiac disease. It is very common in adults and the chances of ARDS rise with age. It is more common in men as compared with women.


Q1. How fatal is ARDS?

Ans. ARDS is a fatal complication and the patients are normally kept on ventilation for some period and is necessary to keep the patient under strong surveillance in any multispecialty hospital. Around 45% of people have chances of dying. But research is still going on to come up with some efficient treatment strategy for a better recovery process.

Q2. Is ARDS a genetic disorder?

Ans. Yes, ARDS is a genetic disorder and can be present in any generation if a single family member had a past history of the same.There are some technologies with which it can be revealed about the prevalence of the disease in each family in the past.

Q3. What are the possible after effects of ARDS?

Ans. The basic factors that lead to ARDS is a major trauma to other organs of the body. The impacted organs include kidney which leads to acute renal insufficiency, heart and liver causing liver failure.The disease also hampers functioning of brain and blood. The damage caused to these major organs need special and additional treatment and the patient needs to be hospitalised as soon as possible.

Updated on: 17-Apr-2023


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