Cystic fibrosis is an inherited genetic disorder that is characterized by the overproduction of bodily fluids such as sweat, mucus, and digestive juices. Cystic fibrosis occurs in a recessive manner and effects, on average, one in every three thousand newborns of European and Caucasian ancestry. The most common complications related to the disease are lung infections, malabsorption of nutrients (poor growth), and severe damage to the digestive system, pancreas, and other organs. The average life expectancy, for people affected by this condition, has increased significantly in the developed world today, although the cure for cystic fibrosis still remains unknown.
Cystic fibrosis is a serious, chronic, and fatal disease. The severity of symptoms and the age at which they begin to manifest may vary from person to person, but the irreparable damage that cystic fibrosis causes to some vital organs, namely the lungs, will be the most probable cause of death for most individuals affected by this condition.
Lung damage occurs because the overproduction of unusually sticky and thick mucus causes the airways to clog up. This makes the lungs prone to frequent bacterial infections including pneumonia. Recurrent infections not only cause symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath, but over time can severely damage the lungs.
Other destructive effects of cystic fibrosis commonly manifest in the intestinal tract and the pancreas. The ducts inside the pancreas may become clogged with thick secretion causing a lack of digestive enzymes in the intestine and therefore malabsorption of nutrients from food.
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Gene mutations which are responsible for the development of cystic fibrosis can be identified early on through testing. Future parents can be tested in order to find out if they are the carriers of the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) gene. Furthermore, if the risk is confirmed, fetal testing can be performed as well.
As a chronic condition, cystic fibrosis requires daily care. The use of antibiotics, other types of medications, mechanical procedures, and balanced nutrition are all a common part of daily life with those who suffer from cystic fibrosis. Nevertheless, individuals suffering from cystic fibrosis are most often capable of having a good quality of life. They can attend school and work and physician approved physical activity is considered to be beneficial.
The average life expectancy has increased when compared to just a few decades ago. Most people with cystic fibrosis can live to their late thirties and reaching forties, or even fifties is becoming more common as well.