Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of ARDS develop suddenly and include the following:

  • Dyspnea (audible, labored breathing, shortness of breath)
  • Tachypnea (abnormally rapid breathing)
  • Severe hypoxaemia (decreased oxygen concentration in the blood)
  • Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries)
  • Cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin due to poor oxygenation of the blood)
  • Presence of abnormal deposits in the lungs (detected by chest x-rays)

Complications of ARDS

Complications of ARDS include the following:

  • Multiorgan failure (or multiple organ dysfunction syndrome): The same inflammatory processes that injure the alveoli and capillary endothelial cells can damage other organs, including the liver, kidney, brain, blood, and immune system.
  • Irreversible pulmonary fibrosis (permanent scarring of lung tissue): Pulmonary fibrosis can lead to prolonged mechanical ventilation and lung dysfunction. Fibrosis decreases the abilities of the lungs to expand and oxygen to cross the alveolar-capillary barrier.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 04 Dec 2000

Last Modified: 01 Sep 2015