Cystic Fibrosis: An Introduction to This Genetic Disease
Mucus, the sticky fluid that your body produces and expels whenever you’re struggling with a cold, actually has multiple purposes. It acts as a protective blanket over tissues to keep them from drying out, traps unwanted substances like dust and dirt before they enter the body, and provides antibodies that fight and kill harmful organisms such as bacteria and viruses, to keep your body healthy.
Even when you're in the pink of health, your body produces a huge amount of mucus — as much as 1 to 1.5 liters (34 to 51 ounces) every day!1 But what happens when your body produces unnaturally large amounts of mucus regularly, and instead of being thin and slippery, it becomes extremely thick and sticky?
This is what people with cystic fibrosis have to deal with. Cystic fibrosis may seem like a simple and treatable condition but, on the contrary, it can be dangerous. If not diagnosed early or managed properly, cystic fibrosis can hamper a person’s quality of life and even lead to early death.
Defining Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that is characterized by unnaturally thick and sticky mucus buildup that can harm the body’s organs, particularly the lungs and pancreas.2 Over time, the airways become clogged with mucus, not only making it difficult for you to breathe, but also allowing germs to become trapped in the body, leading to severe infections.3
Another effect of this disease is the formation of fluid-filled sacs, which are called cysts, and scar tissue, also known as fibrosis — this is actually how the disease acquired its name.4 There are actually different types of cystic fibrosis mutations that can cause this illness. Depending on the gene/s that a person carries, the condition may manifest different symptoms.5
Symptoms of cystic fibrosis may also vary in severity. In some patients, the symptoms may appear in childhood, and may either worsen or improve as time passes. In others, no symptoms appear until the affected child reaches adolescence or adulthood.6
Cystic fibrosis is not contagious but, unfortunately, it’s incurable. However, significant improvements have been made in terms of management and treatment of this disease. During the 1950s, CF patients died before they could attend elementary school, but today, most people live into their 40s, 50s or even beyond.7
Learn How to Deal With Cystic Fibrosis by Reading These Pages
The life expectancy of a person with this disease depends on the severity of the disease and the type of cystic fibrosis gene mutation he or she has. The age of diagnosis may also affect life expectancy, which is why it’s crucial to diagnose this illness as soon as possible. With routine therapies and healthy habits, CF patients can lead an almost normal, active life.
Read these pages to learn everything you need to know about cystic fibrosis — the mutations that cause it, the common symptoms, treatment options and complications to watch out for. By arming yourself with this information, you can properly manage this disease and prolong your longevity.8