What Is Cystic Fibrosis?

(December 6, 2010)

Cystic fibrosis can be seen in many people, but unfortunately, not all people are aware of it. In fact, when some people realize that they or their children have been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis or as asked to go for a cystic fibrosis screen test, their first reaction is to ask the doctor, “What is cystic fibrosis?.

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis can be described as a disease that affects the secreting glands in the body, such as the sweat producing glands and the mucus producing glands. The organs that are mainly affected by this disease are the lungs, intestine, pancreas, liver as well as the sex organs. The mucus is watery and slippery and it usually keeps the lining of some of the organs moist, so that they do not get dry or infected. However, when a person suffers from cystic fibrosis, the mucus becomes thick and sticky. This thickened mucus can then block the airways, which festers the growth of bacteria, leading to lung infections, which can be severely damaging. The mucus that is thick can also block the ducts and tubes in the pancreas, because of which, the digestive enzymes made in the pancreas cannot reach the small intestines. Subsequently, if the intestines do not receive the digestive enzymes, they cannot break down the food properly or absorb the nutrients that are present in food. Because the nutrients are eliminated by the body without being used, it could lead to malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. Because the sweat glands are also affected, cystic fibrosis could cause the sweat to become extremely salty, which causes the body to lose a high amount of salt, thereby upsetting the balance of the blood. Several health problems, such as dehydration could occur when this happens. Other problems that can be an effect of lack of salt are elevated heartbeat, heat stroke, weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure and in some rare cases, death too. It has been seen that cystic fibrosis in infants, children and adults could increase the risks of diabetes, or osteoporosis. In men, cystic fibrosis could lead to infertility problems and in women, it could lead to conception problems.

What is cystic fibrosis in kids?

Cystic fibrosis is usually referred to as an “Inherited disease”, since it is passed on from the genes of the parents to the children. Even though the parents may not have the disease themselves, they do have the gene, which could be passed on to the child. Cystic fibrosis in children occurs when the child inherits two faulty genes, i.e., one form the mother and one from the father. Cystic fibrosis in infants and children usually leads to a decline in lung function. As time progresses, the lunges could be damaged permanently, which could result in severe breathing problems.

What are cystic fibrosis symptoms?

Cystic fibrosis symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the condition. In some people, the condition is severe, where serious digestive and lung problems are evident. In some people, the disease is mild and does not really show up, until adolescence or even adulthood.  The cystic fibrosis symptoms may also vary from time to time in the same person. Because of the lack of proper absorption of nutrients in the body, cystic fibrosis could be accompanied by some very uncomfortable symptoms like intestinal gas, bulky stools, severe constipation, bloated stomach, pain and other discomfort. 

What is cystic fibrosis diagnosis and treatment?

In children, this condition is usually diagnosed after undergoing a cystic fibrosis screen, which includes a blood test or a genetic test. These test highlight if the pancreas are working properly. Adults may be asked to go in for a sweat test, lung function test, or x-rays. Pregnant women may also be asked to undergo a prenatal screening test.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition, but cystic fibrosis treatment options are available in order to reduce the symptoms. For lung infections, the treatments used may include therapy, exercise and medication. Depending on the severity of the condition, cystic fibrosis treatment may or may not require hospitalization. 

Submitted by J on December 6, 2010 at 11:33

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