There are various types of respiratory conditions that can jeopardize life at times and one such condition is ARDS. Medically known as acute respiratory distress syndrome it denotes a serious lung condition leading to below average levels of oxygen in the lungs. Since it affects the oxygen supply to major organs in the human body, ARDS can lead to life threatening situations in victims. A complex health condition requiring regular vigilance and several medical interventions, it is a disorder that requires critical care.
In this syndrome, the injuries and infections cause small blood vessels in the lungs to leak excess fluid in the air sacs and this thwarts air fill up process. As a result, required amount of oxygen cannot get into the blood stream.
Causes of ARDS
As it is, a number of factors inuring lungs can lead to onset of ARDS. The most commonplace factors are:
- Pneumonia-which infects the lungs
- An injury to either head or chest
- Inhaling poisonous gases or fumes
- Sepsis- this happens when bacteria infects blood
It has often been seen people admitted in hospitals or those with serious injuries develop this syndrome, but actual reasons have not been detected.
Major Symptoms of ARDS
The most visible and prominent symptom of ARDS is feeling the lack of air in the lungs. It can be accompanied by fast breathing.
If the syndrome is caused by pneumonia, cough and fever may precede breathing issues.
Some victims of ARDS also suffer extreme fatigue, confusion and low blood pressure. This is triggered when body organs do not get enough oxygen.
Health Complications of ARDS
ARDS can lead to the development of several complications, leading eventually to deterioration of health. Most commonplace instances are:
- Scarring of the lungs
- Collapsed lungs
- Blood clotting
Diagnosis of ARDS
A number of different tests and exams are used to diagnose ARDS. These include:
- Chest X-ray- to reveal fluid accumulation in lungs.
- CT scans
- Arterial blood gas analysis- to assess oxygen levels of blood.
- Bronchoscopy – to evaluate the risk of lung infection.
Treatment Options For ARDS
While there is no specific remedy for ARDS, a victim is hospitalized, often in the ICU. ARDS victims need immediate medical interventions. The doctors deal with the underlying cause and then try to reduce the inflammatory process. The most widely used treatment for ARDS is positive end expiratory pressure, abbreviated as PEEP. It involves the supply of oxygen and continuous pressure. When this is administered, using sedatives to victims is also required.
Supportive treatment in ARDS refers to providing options to prevent complications and relieve symptoms. Supportive treatment is given using a mechanical respirator and oxygen supply.
- Medications can be given to relax nerves and treat pains.
- Lungs and heart functioning is monitored.
- If it is caused by infection, doctors may administer antibiotics as well.
- To prevent dehydration and provide nutrition to the person, Intravenous fluids are given.
- To prevent blood clotting, doctors can give Blood-thinning medicines or compression stocking.
- Medications are also given to the affected reasons to reduce possibilities of intestinal bleeding which can happen from extended ventilator support.
- Some drugs can be given for inhalation so that blocked airways are unclogged.
Continuing Life Post ARDS
After you have an attack of ARDS and taken to hospital for treatment, the outcome can be unpredictable. A lot depends on your immunity level and medical history. Some victims recover fully while others may face health problems once in a while. In some cases, it can lead to mortality as well.
Post treatment problems include:
- Muscle fatigue caused by low oxygen supply to organs
- Mood swings and depression
- Breath shortness
- Pneumonia induced damage to lungs
However, these health problems can fade over time and you need to follow the guidance of your doctor carefully.
Keeping ARDS At Bay
As it is natural, the best way to deal with a syndrome that has no fixed remedy is prevention. To prevent the onset of the syndrome, you can avoid sources of infections that affect lung functioning in general. You can avoid smoking, air pollution sources, alcohol. As and when you face serious breathing hardships, it makes sense to seek medical intervention.