Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
(ARDS; Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome; Non-cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a form of severe lung damage. It happens in people who are very ill or hurt. It can be deadly.
ARDS is caused by small blood vessels that leak fluid into the small air sacs of the lungs. The fluid in the sacs blocks oxygen from passing into the body.
Direct injuries that may lead to ARDS are:
Indirect injuries that may lead to ARDS are:
The health problems above raise the risk of ARDS.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
Signs often start within 24 to 48 hours. They will also worsen with time. It may happen slowly or quickly.
A person may have:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Tests will be done if you are not able to communicate.
Blood tests will be done to look for low oxygen levels, infection, and signs of heart failure.
Pictures will be taken of the chest. This can be done with:
The underlying cause will be treated.
The goal of treatment is to help promote breathing. Choices are:
There are no known guidelines to prevent this problem.
American Lung Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
The Lung Association
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-respiratory-distress-syndrome-ards. Accessed October 29, 2020.
Explore ARDS. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 29, 2020.
Sweeney RM, McAuley DF. Acute respiratory distress syndrome. Lancet. 2016 Nov 12;388(10058):2416-2430.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 4/30/2021
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.
All rights reserved.