Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder that characteristically affects the mucus-producing glands of the body. Sweat and saliva-producing glands may also be affected by the disorder. This condition is detected early in life, with most cases being diagnosed in the first couple of years of life.
The basic pathology behind the disease causes the secretions from the glands to become extremely thick. This can result in a blockage of vital functions and cause widespread inflammation and damage.
How common Is Cystic Fibrosis?
It is one of the most common genetic disorders that are detected in North America and is passed down in a recessive manner through families. This means that for a child to develop cystic fibrosis, the gene mutation responsible must be present in both the parents.
Some of the symptoms that are seen include:
- Inability to pass stool
- Excessively salty sweat
- Decreased amount of salivation
- Poor growth and development
- Persistent cough, wheezing and lung infections
A screening test for cystic fibrosis is usually performed right after the child is born. This can be done through a blood test or checking the functioning of the pancreas.
Treating Cystic Fibrosis
It is absolutely essential to begin treatment as soon as the disease has been detected. There is no doubt that the disease is serious and life threatening, however advances in the treatment protocols and understanding of the disease has meant that life expectancy has more than doubled over the last few decades.
Since the disease is genetic in nature, it is incurable. It is manageable however and that is the aim of the treatment. The attending doctors will assess what the specific problems the child is facing are, and then formulate a suitable treatment plan.
A combination of antibiotics to help fight infection, respiratory therapy, digestive therapy and emotional counseling will be needed to allow the child to live for the maximum possible amount of time. There are specialized centers for the treatment of cystic fibrosis which provide all the treatment required under one roof. It may be a worthwhile to look into these facilities.
The doctors will keep a close watch as to the growth and development of the child. Regular visits to chart out the weight, height and muscular development are a part of the usual protocol. All of the immunizations must be administered to the child in a timely manner since the risk for superimposed infection is much greater.
Medication to help reduce the thickness of the mucus as well as help in clearing it away at a normal rate may also be advised. Regular physical therapy to help in postural clearing of the fluids is also advised.
The life span of affected individuals is greatly reduced. This number has more than doubled over the last few decades, however it is still much lower than what an unaffected person can be expected to have. Depending upon the medical facilities that a patient has access to and can afford, a life span of 30-50 years can estimated for affected individuals.
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