What Is Cystic Fibrosis?

What Is Cystic Fibrosis?

It's a diagnosis that no one wants to hear: Cystic fibrosis. This condition, though mercifully rare, at less than 200,000 cases in the United States per year, is a serious one, and one that those with it in their lives, either through themselves or a loved one, should treat as such. If someone you know has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, or even suspects it, this is a good place to learn. What is cystic fibrosis?

What is Cystic Fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is a disease that is inherited; a person gets it when they receive two genes carrying it from their mother and their father. It effects both the lungs and the digestive system, leading to problems in both of them. It affects primarily the cells that produce fluids such as mucus, sweat, and digestive juices, making these fluids sticky and thick. This causes them to plug up ducts, tubes, and passageways in the body.

Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

There are a lot of symptoms of cystic fibrosis, and they can vary a great deal.

chest pain

Some of the most common include cough, which can be chronic, with either blood or phlegm; repeated lung infections; a lack of weight gain; and fatty stools. There may also be pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, pneumonia, delayed development (including puberty), and male infertility. There are more; your physician can advise you more closely on the subject.

Who Is Most Susceptible?

Because it is an inherited disease, a person is only at risk if his or her parents both have, and pass on, the gene that causes it. Genetic screening before pregnancy can help to prevent this.

mother child

Newborn screenings that are now mostly mandatory are catching more and more cases of cystic fibrosis early on, leading to quick medical intervention. Most cases of cystic fibrosis are caught when the child is an infant.

Getting Diagnosed

There are no other diagnosis options here but to seek the help of a medical professional. They will then conduct the proper tests to see if a patient has cystic fibrosis. Normally, this will be done for a baby, just after birth.

doctor hospital bed

However, for those who didn't have the test after birth, rapid testing as soon as possible is advised. The sooner that a person is tested for cystic fibrosis, the better.


While there is no cure for cystic fibrosis, there are treatments that can make the condition less painful and easier to live with. These include medications such as dietary supplements, antibiotics for infections, and cough medicines, to suppress coughing. The pneumococcal vaccine is also a good idea for those with cystic fibrosis. There is also self care that is available, namely postural drainage, where a person is positioned in a way that allows the mucus to drain better.

pills in hand medicine

Cystic fibrosis can be a frightening diagnosis to hear for anyone you care about. However, with advanced medical technology, there are more treatments than ever, and earlier interventions, so that people with cystic fibrosis can live fuller, longer lives.

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