Cystic Fibrosis

By on Apr 5, 2016

Cystic Fibrosis is a life-threatening disease that is genetically inherited from both parents. It is so dangerous because it causes continuous lung infections and eventually limits breathing capabilities. The defective gene causes secreted fluids like mucus, sweat, and digestive juices to be thick and sticky, building up in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. The excess mucus in the lungs blocks the airways and captures bacteria, causing infections, lung damage, and eventually respiratory failure. Symptoms can include:

  • Salty skin
  • Persistent coughing
  • Exercise Intolerance
  • Frequent lung infections with pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Wheezing, inability to catch breath
  • Poor growth or inability to gain weight despite eating healthily
  • Difficulty with bowel movements, frequent constipation, and other digestive problems
  • Male infertility

The severity of symptoms varies from person to person, meaning each person needs an individualized treatment plan.

Risk factors for Cystic Fibrosis include:

  • Family history: both parents have to pass down the gene for the child to have symptoms. If only one gene is passed down, the child may be a carrier but not have the symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis.
  • Race: Cystic Fibrosis seems to predominantly affect white people of Northern European ancestry. But people of other ethnic backgrounds may also carry the genes for Cystic Fibrosis, just at a lesser rate.
  • If you are thinking of becoming pregnant and you or your spouse has a family history of Cystic Fibrosis, talk to your doctor about your options concerning genetic testing. If you are already pregnant and want to know more about child's chances after they are born, Cystic Fibrosis can now be diagnosed within the first month of being born, before symptoms even appear. This can lead to better care and an improved quality of life.

Recent breakthroughs in the last decade have made it possible for people with Cystic Fibrosis to live to a median age of 40 years old! In the 1950s, children diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis rarely lived to attend elementary school so technology and science have come a long way. Daily therapies for people with Cystic Fibrosis can make quality of life better as well. These therapies include:

  • Clearing the airways with a vibrating vest to loosen the mucus or exercising to open up the breathing passages
  • Using inhaling medicines to fight infection in the lungs to prevent the weakening of the immune system
  • Taking supplements that support the pancreas in enzyme absorption despite increased fluids

If you are concerned your child may have Cystic Fibrosis, make an appointment with your child's pediatrician. Discuss your reasons during the appointment and the pediatrician will be able to address your concerns.   |   Cystic Fibrosis Foundation   |   Mayo Clinic