Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes serious complications for the lungs and the pancreas. Children and adults who live with the disease cope with a number of problems that affect breathing and other everyday aspects of life.
The lungs of people with cystic fibrosis are flooded with mucus that is quite sticky and thick. This causes breathing problems and, often, damage to the lungs. The mucus often clogs pathways leading out of the pancreas as well, which inhibits proper digestion.
The basic attributes of cystic fibrosis cause a number of complications in daily life. People with cystic fibrosis deal with constant lung infections, and they are frequently coughing up mucus. Typically they're wheezy and short of breath. The digestive issues related to the disease cause constipation or large, greasy stools. People with cystic fibrosis often have trouble gaining weight, as well.
Treatment of Cystic Fibrosis
In the past, people with cystic fibrosis often died in early childhood. But advances in medicine over the years have improved their prognosis. Today, more than 45 percent of people living with cystic fibrosis are 18 or older, and the life expectancy of someone with the disease is the late 30s, though many live into their 40s and beyond.
A number of airway clearance techniques and devices can be used to help people with cystic fibrosis. They include such things as mechanical vests or machines that blast air into the lungs to shake mucus loose. Simple hand techniques that knock the mucus loose also can help.
In addition, a number of inhaled medications, when taken regularly, can thin mucus and improve lung function. For people with very severe cystic fibrosis, a lung transplant may be an option.
SOURCES: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; American Lung Association