Causes And Treatment Of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a condition that causes fluid to buildup in the air sacs of your lungs, known as the alveoli. The fluid prevents your lungs from receiving enough air, which means that less oxygen reaches your bloodstream. This condition is considered a life threatening lung injury because it deprives your organs of the oxygen they require to function correctly.
Risk Factors For Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
There are a variety of factors that may increase your risk of developing this condition. These factors include heavy alcohol use, smoking tobacco, obesity, genetic problems, recent surgery or chemotherapy, and using oxygen for another lung condition. Most people who develop ARDS are already hospitalized due to another condition, and many are seriously ill.
Causes Of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Acute respiratory distress syndrome is usually triggered by a preexisting health condition, which is why most people who develop ARDS are already hospitalized. Causes of acute respiratory distress syndrome include sepsis, inhalation of harmful substances, pneumonia, pancreatitis, blood transfusions, and trauma to the head, chest, or other parts of the body. Other possible causes of ARDS may include COVID-19, drug overdose, burns, adverse reactions to certain medications, near drowning, or breathing food into your lungs, known as aspiration.
Symptoms Of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
This condition puts a great deal of strain on the lungs, which can cause a variety of symptoms to become present. These symptoms include shortness of breath, low blood pressure, fast breathing, fast heartbeat (tachycardia), cough, fever, chest pain, confusion, fatigue, dizziness, and blue-tinted lips or nails due to lack of oxygen in the blood. These symptoms can vary in intensity, depending on its cause and severity, as well as the presence of any other underlying heart or lung conditions.
Complications Of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
ARDS can lead to complications such as organ damage or failure, high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries, scarred lung tissue, infection, blood clots, or even a collapsed lung. Other, less severe complications of ARDS can arise as well, such as chronic breathing problems, depression, problems with memory and cognitive function, and tiredness and muscle fatigue.
Testing For Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Since there is no single test that doctors can use to diagnose ARDS, they will typically conduct a variety of tests to rule out any other possible conditions. First, your doctor will ask you about your medical history, conduct a physical exam, and listen to your breathing and heartbeat. Your doctor will then order a series of tests, such as a chest X-ray, CT scan, blood tests, electrocardiogram (EKG), and echocardiogram.
Treatment For Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
The main goal of treating acute respiratory distress syndrome is to improve the levels of oxygen in your blood, in order to help your organs function properly. This can be achieved through treatments such as mechanical ventilation to improve breathing, IV fluids that contain medication, supplemental oxygen, and a variety of medications to help with sedation, preventing and treating infections, preventing blood clots in the legs and lungs, pain relief, and reducing gastric reflux.
During recovery from acute respiratory distress syndrome, making lifestyle changes can help protect your lungs. These include not smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol, getting vaccinated with the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine, and going to physical therapy.
How GPS Can Help
At Gwinnett Pulmonary and Sleep, we offer services to help determine if you are dealing with lung conditions such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, and treatment to help if you are. These services include pulse oximetry and pulmonary function tests, such as spirometry, lung volume, and diffusion capacity; as well as pulmonary rehabilitation.
If you suspect that you may have acute respiratory distress syndrome, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible so that you can begin receiving treatment. Learn more about our services here, or schedule an appointment to talk to our doctors.
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