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For the General Public

Information for patients diagnosed with ALI or ARDS and their family members

How do the lungs work?

Your lungs are organs in your chest that allow your body to take in oxygen from the air. They also help remove carbon dioxide (a waste gas that can be toxic) from your body.

The lungs’ intake of oxygen and removal of carbon dioxide is called gas exchange. Gas exchange is part of breathing.

What is ARDS?

ARDS, or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, is a lung condition that leads to low oxygen levels in the blood. ARDS can be life threatening. This is because your body’s organs, such as the kidneys and brain, need oxygen-rich blood to work properly.

ARDS usually occurs in people who are very ill with another disease or who have major injuries. Most people are already in the hospital when they develop ARDS.

Further Information:

ARDS Fact Sheet *

Causes *

Who is at risk? *

Living with ARDS *


ARDS Foundation

* Information from the NHLBI public website on lung diseases.