Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Home Remedies


Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a life-threatening lung condition which occurs when fluid leaks into the air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs. The fluid prevents enough oxygen from getting to the lungs and into the blood, making breathing difficult or impossible.

There are about 200,000 cases of ARDS each year in the United States. Most people who get ARDS are already critically ill or who have significant injuries. Many people who develop ARDS don’t survive: 30~50 percent of them die of it.


The signs and symptoms of ARDS can depend on its cause and severity. Symptoms can include any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Low blood pressure and organ failure


The causes of ARDS are divided into two categories: direct or indirect injuries to the lung.

Direct causes include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Near drowning
  • Breathing stomach contents into the lung (aspiration)
  • Lung bruising from trauma
  • Inhaling chemicals

Indirect causes include:

  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Severe infection (sepsis)
  • Blood transfusions
  • Burns
  • Medication reactions.

Risk Factors

Few factors may increase the risk for ARDS, including:

  • A history of cigarette smoking
  • Oxygen use for a pre-existing lung condition
  • Recent high-risk surgery
  • Obesity
  • Low protein in the blood
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Recent chemotherapy


The diagnosis is based on the physical exam, chest X-ray and oxygen levels. There is no single test to diagnose ARDS. Patients with ARDS will have rapid onset of shortness of breath and very low oxygen levels in the blood.

Tests used to diagnose ARDS include:

  • Arterial blood gas
  • Blood tests, including CBC (complete blood count) and blood chemistries
  • Blood and urine cultures
  • Bronchoscopy in some people
  • Chest x-ray or CT scan
  • Sputum cultures and analysis
  • Tests for possible infections


ARDS often needs to be treated in an intensive care unit (ICU). Because there is no direct cure for ARDS, treatment focuses on

  • improving the levels of oxygen in your blood
  • preventing and managing complications.

Treatment options include:

Ventilator support
A ventilator is a machine that delivers high doses of oxygen and positive pressure to the damaged lungs. A tube will be inserted into the trachea or windpipe to provide oxygen.

Prone positioning
It is helpful for hospitalized patients with AEDS to lying face down (prone). This will improve oxygen levels in the blood and increase survival.

People with ARDS usually are given medication to:

  • Sedate
  • Prevent and treat infections
  • Relieve pain and discomfort
  • Prevent blood clots in the legs and lungs
  • Minimize gastric reflux

Fluid management
It is crucial to carefully manage the amount of the intravenous fluids. Sometimes doctors will give patients with ARDS a medication called a diuretic to help increase urination. However, this must be done with great care. Too much fluid removal can lead to low blood pressure or kidney problems.

ECMO is short for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. During ECMO, blood is filtered through a machine to provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide.


Problems that may result from ARDS or its treatment include:

  • Failure of many organ systems
  • Lung damage, such as a collapsed lung (also called pneumothorax) due to injury from the breathing machine needed to treat the disease
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the lung)
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia

Home remedies and Recovery

If you’re recovering from ARDS, the following tips can help protect your lungs:

  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, seek help to quit, and avoid secondhand smoke whenever possible.
  • Get vaccinated. The yearly flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine every five years can reduce your risk of lung infections.

It is important to note that people can survive ARDS. Most patients will not require oxygen on a long-term basis and will regain most of their lung function. However, it takes time to entirely recover from ARDS, and you’ll need plenty of support. Here are some suggestions that may help you adjust to your condition and recover:

  • Joining a support group
  • Attend pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Seek professional help, especially when you have symptoms of depression


As part of your diet, herbs can be helpful in boosting the immune, supporting lung function, relaxing the tension of mood.


This herb contains menthol, an agent that promotes the relaxation of the muscles in the respiratory tract. You may have a cup of peppermint tea, or add it into your dishes.


It has carvacrol and rosmarinic acid which act as a decongestant and histamine reducer, relieving symptoms like cough.


Curcumin is an active ingredient in turmeric, it has a wide variety of benefits for people suffering with lung disease. Namely, the herb can help prevent and modulate inflammation in the airways, and it can help manage stress that is induced by a lack of oxygen in the body.

Osha Root

Osha root is one of the best lung support herbs found naturally in the United States. The ingredient helps increase circulation to the lungs and produces an effect similar to antihistamines.


* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.