Introduction: The exponential growth of SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission during the first months of 2020 has placed substantial pressure on most health systems around the world. The complications derived from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vary due to comorbidities, sex and age, with more than 50% of the patients requiring some level of intensive care developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The authors carried out an extensive and comprehensive literature review on SARS-CoV-2 infection, the clinical, pathological and radiological presentation as well as the current treatment strategies. Areas covered: Various complications caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection have been identified, the most lethal being the acute respiratory distress syndrome, caused most likely by the presence of severe immune cell response and the concomitant alveolus inflammation. The new treatment strategies are updated, and the analysis of the physiopathology is included in this review. Expert opinion: ARDS is one of the most frequent complications in patients with COVID-19. Information regarding the etiology and physiopathology are still unfolding and for the prevention and amelioration, good clinical management, adequate ventilatory support and the use of systemic corticoids seem to be the most efficient way to reduce mortality and to reduce hospital lengths.