ARDS stands for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. ARDS is a condition of respiratory failure occurring post build-up of fluid in the lungs causing distress such that the oxygen cannot get into the organs. There will be fluid leakage from blood vessels leading to a collection of the fluid in small sacs in the lungs known as Alveoli resulting in less collection of air in the sacs, it is due to this the blood cannot collect enough oxygen from the lungs causing less oxygen supply to the rest of the body. So the organs which need more oxygen may not receive enough oxygen which can cause hindrance in their function also leading them to cease operating. ARDS needs to be diagnosed early for better treatment and early recovery. In short, ARDS disrupts the lung capacity of the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide respectively causing organ damage.
There are several causes which result in ARDS:
Trauma: Any injury to the lungs might cause damage hence troubling the normal mechanism and function of the lungs thus disrupting normal oxygen supply to the lungs and other organs of the body.
Pneumonia: An infection of the lungs caused by fungi, bacteria causing inflammation of the Alveoli preventing proper oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange since it is filled with pus and fluid. This can also become a cause for ARDS.
Sepsis: This happens when there is an infection in the blood triggering the immune system thus causing inflammation, bleeding troubles and also blood clots which might lead to ARDS.
Smoking: Breathing harmful fumes can cause lung disorders.
Aspiration: Entry of food or other gastrointestinal substance or any pharyngeal secretions into the respiratory tract causing distress can also be among several reasons for ARDS.
Other causes also include drowning, allergy, drug overdose, medicinal reactions etc.
Several risk factors are said to be accounting for ARDS according to few medical practitioners, they are:
Genetic Problem: few believe ARDS can be hereditary
Alcohol use, use of tobacco, obesity also are some risk factors included.
ARDS occurs when there is damage caused to the lungs due to any external injury or any disease because of which the alveoli of the lungs that are responsible for the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange is affected thus causing trouble in normal oxygen supply to the other organs of the body. ARDS is also found in Atelectasis( partial collapse of the lungs ) and hypoxemia(low-level oxygen in the blood ). However, the most common pathology involved in ARDS is DAD( Diffuse Alveolar Damage ). This also involves inflammation of lung tissue. The immune mechanism activates itself hence the Neutrophils and Lymphocytes travel to the inflamed tissue of the lung. The exact mechanism of occurrence is unknown but few researchers claim that inflammation and mechanical stress can be a few of the reasons.
ARDS diagnosis is done by physical examination, chest x-ray, blood examination. Further evaluation is done by CT scan, MRI. It is necessary to differentiate ARDS with other diseases since few other heart problems show similar symptoms like ARDS like cyanosis, excessive sweating, pallor, etc. If the medical practitioner suspects any lung problem then a pulmonary function test is recommended along with testing the secretions from the lung.
To rule out the probable causes, even heart examination and few other tests are conducted like checking for murmurs, any added sounds, patients ankles are checked for oedema, other tests include cardiac stress tests, ECG, cardiac imaging for further differentiation between ARDS and cardiac issues.
The first line of treatment includes a better supply of oxygen so that the organs function properly. This is done either by supplemental oxygen which is done if the symptoms are mild. If the symptoms are worse than mechanical ventilation is considered. If the patient requires intravenous fluid then it should be carefully administered to prevent fluid buildup in the lungs.
1. What Causes ARDS?
Ans: Lung problems like pneumonia, aspiration, burn injuries, drug overdose, heart problems are some of the probable causes. Some of the diseases that cause ARDS tend to damage other organs apart from lungs like liver, heart, brain, etc.
2. How Quickly does ARDS Develop?
Ans: ARDS develops within 24-48 hours after the incident or onset of the disease. Symptoms might develop within a week after the onset of the disease.