Adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a form of lung failure. It is a life-threatening lung condition. ARDS can occur in very ill or severely injured people. It is not a specific disease.

ARDS starts with the tiny blood vessels in the lungs. These vessels leak fluid into the lung sacs. The fluid decreases the ability of the lungs to move oxygen into the body.

ARDS can develop in anyone over the age of one year old.

Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome
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ARDS can be caused by many types of injuries, including:

  • Direct injury to the lungs:
    • Chest trauma, such as a heavy blow
    • Aspiration of stomach contents
    • Obstructed airways
    • High attitude disease
    • Tuberculosis
    • Oxygen toxicity
    • Radiation
    • Cardiopulmonary bypass
    • Breathing smoke, chemicals, or salt water
    • Burns
  • Indirect injury to the lungs:
    • Severe infection
    • Massive blood transfusion
    • Pneumonia
    • Shock
    • Burn
    • Head trauma
    • Severe inflammation of the pancreas ( pancreatitis)
    • Overdoses of alcohol or certain drugs (eg, aspirin, cocaine, opioids, phenothiazines, and tricyclic antidepressants)

ARDS may occur within few days of a lung or bone marrow transplantation.