Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease commonly found in the Caucasian people of the U.S. Studies show that one in every 4,000 babies in the country, are born with this life-shortening disease. The incidence of this disease is comparatively very low in African-American children (1 in 15,000) and Asian Americans (1 in 32,000). It is the most common genetic disease in the European countries, as one in every 22 people of the Mediterranean descent carries one gene of cystic fibrosis.
What is Cystic Fibrosis?
Mucus is a slimy secretion produced by mucous membranes which are the linings of body cavities and internal organs. Normally, mucus is clear and thin, serving the purpose of filtering air during inhalation. In a person with cystic fibrosis, it becomes thick and sticky. This thick mucus blocks the lungs, thereby causing infections and respiratory problems. It may also clog the ducts between the pancreas and the small intestine, and cause digestive problems and slow growth. This condition can also affect the liver, and eventually result in multiple organ failure.
Cystic fibrosis symptoms may vary from person to person. Some people with this disease may experience severe lung and digestive problems. Others may develop severe symptoms, as they reach adolescence. Most of the affected people are likely to experience severe breathing problems. Respiratory failure is found to be the most common reason for death in those affected with cystic fibrosis. In case of newborns, the skin tastes salty, and the baby does not pass stools. As the condition can affect different bodily systems, the nature of symptoms may also vary. The following are some of the common symptoms of cystic fibrosis.
- Repeated lung infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
- Chronic cough, which expels thick sputum or mucus streaked with blood.
- Wheezing and frequent bouts of sinusitis.
- Severe conditions, like pneumothorax (collapsed lung) or bronchiectasis (damaged and widened airways).
- Nasal polyps that block the nose. They have to be removed through surgery.
- Frequent diarrhea; and bulky, foul-smelling, and greasy stools.
- Stomach pain due to constipation and accumulation of gas.
- Poor growth in kids, in spite of a good appetite.
- Failure to thrive, in case of infants.
- Blockage or absence of vas deferens, causing infertility in males.
- Females may experience difficulty in conceiving due to blockage of cervix with thick mucus.
- Excessive salt in sweat, which causes dehydration, increased heartbeat rate, tiredness, low blood pressure, and heat stroke.
- Low bone density and a condition called 'clubbing' (widening and rounding of the tips of fingers and toes).
- In severe cases, liver problems may develop, due to inflamed or blocked bile ducts.
- Diabetes, gallstones, osteoporosis, pancreatitis, and rectal prolapse, may also develop.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.