What is cystic fibrosis?
Cystic fibrosis is a disease that causes mucus in the body to become thick and sticky. This glue-like mucus builds up and causes problems in many of the body's organs, especially the lungs and the pancreas. People who have cystic fibrosis can have serious breathing problems and lung disease. They can also have problems with nutrition, digestion, growth, and development. The disease generally gets worse over time.
The life expectancy for people with cystic fibrosis has been steadily increasing over the past 40 years. On average, people who have cystic fibrosis live into their mid-to-late 30s, although new treatments are making it possible for some people to live into their 40s and longer.
What causes cystic fibrosis?
Cystic fibrosis is one of the most common genetic disorders in white children in the United States. It's caused by a change, or mutation, in a gene. The changed gene is passed down in families. To pass on this disease, both parents must be carriers of the changed gene.
What are the symptoms?
Cystic fibrosis is usually diagnosed at an early age. Although the symptoms are not the same for everyone, some common symptoms of a baby who has cystic fibrosis include:
Other symptoms may also develop in childhood such as:
How is cystic fibrosis diagnosed?
Most people who have cystic fibrosis have signs of it when they are children. In the United States, some states routinely screen newborn babies for cystic fibrosis. Screening tests look for a certain health problem before any symptoms appear.
If your child has a positive newborn screening test or symptoms of cystic fibrosis, your doctor will order a sweat test to see how much salt is in your child's sweat. People with cystic fibrosis have sweat that is much saltier than normal. The doctor may also suggest a genetic test. Finding a high amount of salt in two sweat tests or finding certain changed genes will confirm a diagnosis.
How is it treated?
Experts have not yet found a cure for cystic fibrosis, but new and improved treatments help people who have cystic fibrosis live longer. The types of treatment your child receives depends on what kinds of health problems the cystic fibrosis is causing and how your child's body responds to different types of treatment. Most people combine medicines, home treatment methods (including respiratory and nutritional therapies), and other specialized care to manage the disease.
Frequently Asked Questions
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.