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Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to ARDS. These may be caused by other, more or less serious health conditions. If you or someone else is experiencing any one of them, seek medical help:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast, labored breathing
  • Bluish skin or fingernail color
  • Rapid pulse
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Headache
  • Dry Cough

They often develop within 24-48 hours of the injury.

Diagnosis

Doctors may suspect ARDS when:

  • A person suffering from severe infection or injury develops acute, severe breathing problems
  • A chest x-ray shows fluid in the air sacs of both lungs
  • Blood tests show a dangerously low level of oxygen in the blood
  • Other conditions that could cause breathing problems have been ruled out

The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. People who develop ARDS may be too sick to complain of symptoms. If a patient shows signs of developing ARDS, tests may include the following:

  • Blood pressure check
  • Blood tests—to look for oxygen levels, evidence of infection (complete blood count, viral and bacterial cultures) and markers of heart failure
  • Chest x-ray
  • Swabs from nose and throat for identifying viruses
  • Occasionally, an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound), to rule out congestive heart failure
  • Pulmonary artery catheterization to aid in diagnostic work-up
  • Bronchoscopy to analyze airways—A laboratory examination may indicate presence of certain viruses or cancer cells
  • Open lung biopsy is reserved for cases when diagnosis is difficult to establish

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2019 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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