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- Patient Comments: ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) - Experience
- Patient Comments: ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) - Diagnosis
- Patient Comments: ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) - Treatment
What are the complications from ARDS?
If you have ARDS, you can develop other medical problems while in the hospital. The most common problems are:
- Infections. Being in the hospital and lying down for a long time can put you at risk for infections, such as pneumonia. Being on a ventilator also puts you at higher risk for infections.
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung). This is a condition in which air or gas collects in the space around the lungs. This can cause one or both lungs to collapse. The air pressure from a ventilator can cause this condition.
- Lung scarring. ARDS causes the lungs to become stiff (scarred) and makes it hard for them to expand and fill with air. Being on a ventilator also can cause lung scarring.
- Blood clots. Lying down for long periods can cause blood clots to form in your body. A blood clot that forms in a vein deep in your body is called a deep vein thrombosis. This type of blood clot can break off, travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, and block blood flow. This condition is called pulmonary embolism.
Living with ARDS
Some people fully recover from ARDS. Others continue to have health problems. After you go home from the hospital, you may have one or more of the following problems:
- Shortness of breath. After treatment, many people who have ARDS recover close-to-normal lung function within 6 months. For others, it may take longer. Some people have breathing problems for the rest of their lives.
- Tiredness and muscle weakness. Being in the hospital and on a ventilator (a machine that supports breathing) can cause your muscles to weaken. You also may feel very tired following treatment.
- Depression. Many people who've had ARDS feel depressed for a while after treatment.
- Problems with memory and thinking clearly. Certain medicines and a low blood oxygen level can cause these problems.
These health problems may go away within a few weeks, or they may last longer. Talk with your doctor about how to deal with these issues. Also, see the suggestions below.
You can take steps to recover from ARDS and improve your quality of life. For example, ask your family and friends for help with everyday activities.
If you smoke, quit. Smoking can worsen lung problems. Talk to your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke and other lung irritants, such as harmful fumes.
Go to pulmonary rehabilitation (rehab) if your doctor recommends it. Rehab might include exercise training, education, and counseling. Rehab can teach you how to return to normal activities and stay active.
Your rehab team might include doctors, nurses, and other specialists. They will work with you to create a program that meets your needs.
Emotional Issues and Support
Living with ARDS may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. Talk about how you feel with your health care team. Talking with a professional counselor also can help. If you're very depressed, your doctor may recommend medicines or other treatments that can improve your quality of life.
Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to living with ARDS. You can see how other people who have the same symptoms have coped with them. Talk to your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.