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Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)

What is Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

Respiratory Distress Syndrome is a problem in premature babies where their lungs are not fully developed and due to this they are not able to provide enough oxygen. As a result of this, it becomes hard for babies to breathe.


What causes Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

RDS usually occurs in babies when there is lack of surfactant in lungs. Surfactant is a slippery substance present in fully developed lungs and it helps lungs fill with air & keeps the air sacs from deflating. RDS can also occur due to genetic problems with lung development. There are certain risk factors that increase the chances of RDS, namely:

  • Sibling with RDS
  • Diabetic mother
  • C-section delivery or induction of labor before the baby is full-term
  • Problems occurring during delivery that obstruct the blood supply to the baby
  • Multiple pregnancy
  • Rapid labor


What are the symptoms of Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

The symptoms of RDS are easily visible after the infant is born and these signs worsen with time. They may include:

  • Bluish lips, toes and fingers
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Flaring nostrils
  • Decreased urine output
  • A grunting sound while breathing
  • Unusual breathing movement


How can Respiratory Distress Syndrome be treated?

The treatment options for RDS may include:

  • Giving warm, moist oxygen to infants under careful monitoring
  • Giving extra surfactant to sick infant
  • Assisted ventilation support is helpful in many babies
  • A treatment called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) may be given