What are the signs and symptoms of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)?

Updated: Mar 27, 2020
  • Author: Eloise M Harman, MD; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, FAPS, MCCM  more...
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Answer

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is characterized by the development of acute dyspnea and hypoxemia within hours to days of an inciting event, such as trauma, sepsis, drug overdose, massive transfusion, acute pancreatitis, or aspiration. In many cases, the inciting event is obvious, but, in others (eg, drug overdose), it may be harder to identify.

Patients developing ARDS are critically ill, often with multisystem organ failure, and they may not be capable of providing historical information. Typically, the illness develops within 12-48 hours after the inciting event, although, in rare instances, it may take up to a few days.

With the onset of lung injury, patients initially note dyspnea with exertion. This rapidly progresses to severe dyspnea at rest, tachypnea, anxiety, agitation, and the need for increasingly high concentrations of inspired oxygen.


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