Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is an emergency situation in which fluid buildup in the lungs causes breathing failure. Acute respiratory distress syndrome occurs most often in people who are being treated for another serious illness or injury, including infections, trauma, and exposure to toxic chemicals.
Acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is also called adult respiratory distress syndrome, develops rapidly. Symptoms of acute respiratory distress syndrome include shortness of breath and rapid breathing. Blood tests will show low amounts of oxygen in the blood (hypoxia). Admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) is usually needed when a person has respiratory failure.