Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a condition characterized by the buildup of mucus in the lungs. In a healthy individual, the mucus that lines the lungs is slippery and thin. In patients suffering from cystic fibrosis, the mucus produced is thick and causes blockages in the airways.
Other parts of the body that can be affected by cystic fibrosis include the pancreas, liver, sinuses and reproductive organs.
What Causes Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic fibrosis is passed from parent to child through the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR) gene. People who suffer from the condition inherit one faulty gene from each parent. Parents do not need to have cystic fibrosis in order to pass the condition to their child.
An individual may be at greater risk for having cystic fibrosis depending on his or her family history and ethnicity.
What Symptoms Are Associated with Cystic Fibrosis?
A patient suffering from cystic fibrosis will display the following signs:
- Persistently coughing up phlegm
- Postnasal drip
- Salty skin
- Low body weight despite having an appetite
- Gastrointestinal complications such as diarrhea or constipation
How is Cystic Fibrosis Diagnosed?
A healthcare provider can diagnose an individual with cystic fibrosis through the observation of signs and symptoms as well as a number of tests, which include:
- Genetic testing used to identify mutation of CFTR genes
- Prenatal diagnostic tests used to diagnose unborn babies suspected of having cystic fibrosis
- Sweat tests used to evaluate for high levels of chloride in the sweat, which may indicate the presence of cystic fibrosis
How is Cystic Fibrosis Treated?
Although there is not yet a cure for cystic fibrosis, certain lifestyle changes and treatments can help patients live longer, healthier lives. Healthy lifestyle changes include:
- Avoiding tobacco smoke
- Increased physical activity
- Healthier eating habits
In addition, the cystic fibrosis specialists at Tampa General Hospital may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Airway clearance exercises designed to loosen mucus so it can be extracted
- Medicines including antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medicine, bronchodilators, CFTR modulators and mucus thinners
- Surgical procedures for more advanced cases