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Cystic Fibrosis

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Cystic fibrosis is a disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in various parts of the body such as the lungs and digestive tract. It is a serious, life-threatening disease that is often diagnosed in young children. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, there are approximately 70,000 people in the world suffering from the chronic disease with nearly 30,000 of them in the U.S. alone. The thick, sticky mucus is built up in the lungs and can cause lung infections, which are often fatal as well as obstructing the pancreas and keeping the body from absorbing food properly. In the 1950s, children born with cystic fibrosis wouldnt live more than a few years but modern technology helps individuals get treatment for the disease and can live up to 40 or longer. While treatments are available, there is currently no cure for cystic fibrosis.

Causes and Risk Factors of Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition you are born with, and is from a defective gene. This gene causes your body to have thick and sticky mucus in your lungs and digestive tract, which can build up and keep you from breathing properly or absorbing food. It can also affect your sweat glands. It is possible to carry the cystic fibrosis gene, but not have symptoms because you have to inherit both cystic fibrosis genes from your parents. Aside from having both parents carrying the gene and passing it on to you, the biggest risk factor for cystic fibrosis is being Caucasian, particularly Northern European ancestry. It is equal among genders with millions of people in the U.S. carrying the gene and not realizing it unless they get genetic testing done.

Signs, Symptoms and Testsof Cystic Fibrosis

Some children who are born with cystic fibrosis dont show signs and symptoms immediately. Sometimes the disease is mild and will never show any signs. Others, however, show symptoms like a persistent cough with phlegm, skin that tastes salty, lung infections from bacteria, getting pneumonia, bronchitis or sinusitis often, breathing problems, wheezing, nasal polyps, low growth or weight gain, diarrhea that is persistent and foul smelling and bulky or greasy stool. More severe symptoms that can develop over time include gallstones, diabetes, liver disease and pancreatitis. The main diagnosis method is to perform a genetic screening. Many parents of newborns will get this done and can know right away if their child has the gene. If you have difficulty breathing, you should get emergency medical attention. Newborns may also get a sweat test to look for signs of cystic fibrosis. Some tests are performed after being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis to see the damage, including x-rays, CT scans, lung function tests, sputum culture and organ function tests.

Treatment, Drugs and Preventionof Cystic Fibrosis

If one suspects they may have the disease or have been diagnosed in the past, its important to have regular examinations by a medical professional. While there is no cure for cystic fibrosis though modern medicine, there are a variety of treatments options for this disease. The earlier someone is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, the better off they will be. This is why many newborns are automatically tested for it with sweat or genetic testing as early diagnosis can lengthen their life. Treatment for cystic fibrosis usually points to one area of treatment such as for the lungs. Lungs can be treated with antibiotics, inhaled medications, enzyme therapy, hypertonic saline, oxygen therapy, a flu vaccine and lung transplant in more severe cases.

You can also get treatment for digestive problems like being put on a special diet and taking vitamin supplements. Home treatment includes drinking plenty of fluids, clearing the mucus from your airways, avoiding smoke dirt, fireplace smoke, mold and household chemicals and getting regular exercise. You may also get chest physical therapy with devices to loosen your lung mucus including an inflatable vest, breathing device or chest clapper. Surgical treatments include the removal of polyps in your nasal passages, oxygen therapy, endoscopy, bowel surgery, feeding tube, or lung transplant. No prevention is available if both parents have the disease and then have a child; it is likely the child will be born with the cystic fibrosis gene. If you show signs of the disease, seeing your doctor now is important to start getting treatments.