Symptoms and Signs of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a potentially life-threatening condition in which fluid accumulates in some of the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs, and other alveoli collapse. The damage to the alveoli leads to a reduced concentration of oxygen in the blood. Low levels of oxygen in the blood cause damage to other vital organs of the body such as the kidneys. Injury or damage to the lung that may cause ARDS includes trauma, sepsis (severe infection in the blood), drug overdose, massive transfusion of blood products, acute pancreatitis, or aspiration of fluid into the lungs.

Symptoms of acute respiratory distress syndrome include severe difficulty breathing, low blood oxygen levels, rapid breathing, anxiety, agitation, confusion, coughing, coughing up foam or fluid, bluish color to fingertips and lips, and fever.

Must Read Articles:


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.