ARDS Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

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What Causes ARDS?

Many conditions or factors can directly or indirectly injure the lungs and lead to ARDS. Some common ones are:

  • Sepsis. This is a condition in which bacteria infect the bloodstream.
  • Pneumonia. This is an infection in the lungs.
  • Severe bleeding caused by an injury to the body.
  • An injury to the chest or head, like a severe blow.
  • Breathing in harmful fumes or smoke.
  • Inhaling vomited stomach contents from the mouth.

It's not clear why some very sick or seriously injured people develop ARDS and others don't. Researchers are trying to find out why ARDS develops and how to prevent it.

Who is At Risk for ARDS?

People at risk for ARDS have a condition or illness that can directly or indirectly injure their lungs.

Direct Lung Injury

Conditions that can directly injure the lungs include:

  • Pneumonia. This is an infection in the lungs.
  • Breathing in harmful fumes or smoke.
  • Inhaling vomited stomach contents from the mouth.
  • Using a ventilator. This is a machine that helps people breathe; rarely, it can injure the lungs.
  • Nearly drowning.

Indirect Lung Injury

Conditions that can indirectly injure the lungs include:

  • Sepsis. This is a condition in which bacteria infect the bloodstream.
  • Severe bleeding caused by an injury to the body or having many blood transfusions.
  • An injury to the chest or head, such as a severe blow.
  • Pancreatitis (PAN-kre-a-TI-tis). This is a condition in which the pancreas becomes irritated or infected. The pancreas is a gland that releases enzymes and hormones.
  • Fat embolism (EM-bo-lizm). This is a condition in which fat blocks an artery. A physical injury, like a broken bone, can lead to a fat embolism.
  • Drug reaction.

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