Some people fully recover from ARDS. Others continue to have health problems. After you go home from the hospital, you may have one or more of the following problems:
- Shortness of breath. After treatment, many people who have ARDS recover close-to-normal lung function within 6 months. For others, it may take longer. Some people have breathing problems for the rest of their lives.
- Tiredness and muscle weakness. Being in the hospital and on a ventilator (a machine that supports breathing) can cause your muscles to weaken. You also may feel very tired following treatment.
- Depression. Many people who've had ARDS feel depressed for a while after treatment.
- Problems with memory and thinking clearly. Certain medicines and a low blood oxygen level can cause these problems.
These health problems may go away within a few weeks, or they may last longer. Talk with your doctor about how to deal with these issues. Also, see the suggestions below.
You can take steps to recover from ARDS and improve your quality of life. For example, ask your family and friends for help with everyday activities.
If you smoke, quit. Smoking can worsen lung problems. Talk to your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke and other lung irritants, such as harmful fumes.
If you have trouble quitting smoking on your own, consider joining a support group. Many hospitals, workplaces, and community groups offer classes to help people quit smoking.
For more information about how to quit smoking, go to the Health Topics Smoking and Your Heart article and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI's) "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart." Although these resources focus on heart health, they include general tips on how to quit smoking.
Go to pulmonary rehabilitation (rehab) if your doctor recommends it. Rehab might include exercise training, education, and counseling. Rehab can teach you how to return to normal activities and stay active.
Your rehab team might include doctors, nurses, and other specialists. They will work with you to create a program that meets your needs.
Emotional Issues and Support
Living with ARDS may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. Talk about how you feel with your health care team. Talking with a professional counselor also can help. If you're very depressed, your doctor may recommend medicines or other treatments that can improve your quality of life.
Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to living with ARDS. You can see how other people who have the same symptoms have coped with them. Talk to your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.
Support from family and friends also can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.