Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

ARDS or acute respiratory distress syndrome is a severe respiratory disorder caused by the buildup of fluid in the alveoli or the small air sacs in the lungs. The main symptoms are severe shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

ARDS is often caused by a critical illness, such as sepsis or severe pneumonia. One of the causes of pneumonia which is currently becoming a pandemic is the Coronavirus (COVID-19). According to a number of studies, some COVID-19 patients can experience ARDS in the course of their illness.

ARDS is an emergency condition that threatens the life of the sufferer. So that it needs to be handled quickly and precisely.

Causes of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
ARDS is caused by damage to the alveoli due to the leakage of fluid from the capillaries in the lungs into the alveoli. Alveoli are air pockets in the lungs that function to channel oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide from the blood.

Under normal conditions, the membrane that protects the capillaries keeps fluids in the blood vessels. However, in ARDS, injury or serious illness causes damage to the protective membrane, so that fluid leaks into the alveoli.

This buildup of fluid makes the lungs unable to fill with air, resulting in reduced oxygen supply to the bloodstream and the body. Lack of oxygen supply will stop the function of organs, including the brain and kidneys. If allowed, this condition will threaten the life of the sufferer.

Some of the conditions and diseases that can cause ARDS are:
  • Sepsis
  • Injury to the head or chest, for example from a collision or accident
  • Pneumonia (lung infection) is severe
  • Burns
  • Inhalation of hаzаrdоuѕ ѕubѕtаnсеѕ, such аѕ соnсеntrаtеd fumеѕ оr сhеmісаl vapors
  • Choking or near-drowning
  • Receive a blood transfusion with a large volume of blood
  • Pancreatitis
Risk Factors for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
There are several factors that can increase a person's risk of developing ARDS, including:
  1. Are over 65 years of age
  2. Have a smoking habit
  3. Have an alcoholic drink addiction
  4. Suffering from chronic lung disease
  5. Suffering from a genetic disorder
  6. Suffering from obesity
  7. Have overdosed on certain drugs
Symptoms of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Symptoms of ARDS can vary from person to person, depending on the cause, severity, and whether there are other illnesses, such as heart disease or lung disease.

Some of the symptoms and signs that can appear in people with ARDS are:
  1. Short and fast breath
  2. Hard to breathe
  3. Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  4. The body feels very tired
  5. Excessive sweating
  6. Bluish lips or nails (cyanosis)
  7. Chest pain
  8. Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
  9. Cough
  10. Fever
  11. Headache or dizziness
  12. Confused
Diagnosis of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
The doctor will ask about the patient's symptoms and medical history, followed by a physical examination. The physical examination includes examining vital signs, such as respiratory rate or frequency, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and bluish color of the lips and nails, and a physical examination of the chest wall.

To confirm the diagnosis and cause, the doctor will perform the following tests:
  1. Blood test, to measure the level of oxygen in the blood (blood gas analysis) and check for anemia or infection
  2. Chest X-ray, to see the location and amount of fluid buildup in the lungs, as well as to detect possible enlargement of the heart
  3. CT scan, to see the condition of the lungs and heart with a more detailed picture
  4. Echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart), to assess the condition and structure of the heart and detect the presence or absence of impaired heart function
  5. Electrocardiogram (EKG), to view the electrical activity of the heart and rule out symptoms caused by heart disease
  6. Culture or examination of sputum samples, to find out bacteria or other microorganisms that cause infection
  7. Biopsy or tissue sampling from the lungs, to rule out symptoms caused by lung disease other than ARDS
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Treatment
ARDS treatment aims to increase oxygen levels in the blood so that the patient's organs function normally and avoid organ failure. Another goal of ARDS treatment is to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.

Some of the methods for dealing with ARDS are:
  1. Provide oxygen support through a nasal tube or mask for patients with mild symptoms
  2. Put on breathing aids and a ventilator to help carry oxygen to the lungs
  3. Give fluids through an IV
  4. Provide nutritional intake using a nasogastric tube that is inserted through the nose
  5. Providing antibiotics to prevent and treat infections
  6. Give blood thinners to prevent blood clots in the legs and lungs
  7. Provide pain relievers, drugs to reduce stomach acid, and drugs to relieve anxiety
For ARDS patients who are recovering, they are advised to undergo pulmonary rehabilitation. This action is aimed at strengthening the respiratory system and increasing lung capacity.

Complications of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
People with ARDS can experience complications, both due to ARDS itself and the side effects of its treatment. Some of these complications are:
  1. DVT (deep vein thrombosis) or blood clots in the deep veins in the legs due to continuous lying down
  2. Pneumothorax or accumulation of air in the pleural membrane generally occurs due to air pressure from the use of a ventilator
  3. Lung infections due to the entry of germs into the lungs through the breathing apparatus
  4. Pulmonary fibrosis or the formation of scar tissue in the lungs which makes it more difficult for the lungs to supply oxygen to the blood
In addition to the complications above, people with ARDS who have successfully recovered can experience long-term health problems, such as:
  1. Respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath, so the patient needs long-term oxygen assistance
  2. Impaired thinking and memory due to brain damage
  3. Weakness and muscle atrophy due to not being used to move for too long (in patients who have to lie down for a long time)
  4. Depression
Prevention of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
There are several things that can be done to reduce the risk of ARDS, namely:
  1. Quit smoking and stay away from exposure to cigarette smoke
  2. Cut out alcoholic beverages
  3. Have a flu immunization every year and PCV immunization every 5 years to reduce the risk of developing lung infections