The many challenges of Adults with Cystic Fibrosis
In the past decades, cystic fibrosis (CF) has always been referred to as a child disease. However, thanks to many positive developments in scientific research, a child who has been diagnosed with CF can now look forward to living many years as an adult. Then again, living as an adult with this disease can present many challenges, as explained below.
1. Constant Medication
A person suffering from cystic fibrosis will have to deal with being dependent on medication for the rest of his life. Following drugs are commonly used to treat pulmonary symptoms:
- Bronchodilators are used to ease the pulmonary airflow,
- Mucus thinners make the gluey phlegm more liquid,
- Antibiotics are necessary to fight bacteria thriving in the lungs. Antibiotics play a very important role for CF sufferers and need to be taken daily once the lungs are colonized by germs like Pseudomonas. Antibiotics are given both orally and by means of a nebulizer.
2. The use of nebulizers
Adult patients tend to use 2 nebulizer sessions per day: one in the morning and one in the evening. The inhaled medicines are bronchodilator, mucus thinner and when needed antibiotics. Each session takes about 10 to 15 minutes using the latest aerosols.
Next to the usual aerosol sessions, patients can be treated with specific medications like Pulmozyme which brakes down thick and sticky mucus and Tobramycin (Tobi) that is used by patients with Pseudomonsas Aeruginosa lung infection and replaces regular aerosol antibiotics.
3. Yearly hospitalization session(s)
Every year, CF patients need one or more IV antibiotic sessions in the hospital to “clean” the lungs from bacteria. Usually an antibiotic session like this takes about 2 weeks.
4. Physical Therapy Regimen
Despite the best efforts to take the required medication, an adult suffering from cystic fibrosis will also have to undergo a continuous physical therapy regimen.
This treatment will consist of daily chest massages to relieve the patient of the mucus that built up in the lungs during sleeping. As a child, the parents or therapist would be doing this for the patient, but as he grows up, he will need to learn how to do this for himself, with the use of PEP mask, vests or through “auto drainage”.
Physical therapies have to be executed daily or twice a day, taking about 15 to 30 minutes per session.
5. Maintaining the Right Diet
It is very important for a person suffering from cystic fibrosis to stay in good health. Maintaining an adequate diet plays an important role in this matter. Since CF persons burn more calories than other people just by breathing, patients needs to maintain a diet that is high in calories and fat.
Taking the right supplements is also essential for cystic fibrosis patients. As the body cannot digest the nutrients from food properly, it is necessary to supplement the body with pancreatic enzymes that will help break down food. Vitamin and mineral supplements are also added to the diet.
An adult suffering from cystic fibrosis must also watch his sugar intake, especially sugar found in liquids. Cystic fibrosis makes the pancreas susceptible to scarring, and a scarred pancreas will have a decreased ability to produce insulin. With less insulin in the blood stream, the body can develop diabetes.
6. Vigilance in Keeping Healthy
As inevitable as exposure to germs may be, a person having cystic fibrosis can minimize the risk of getting infected. As an example, the patient should avoid contact with people having a cold or any other infectious diseases. He should also get vaccinated against the flu. Most of all, he should never take up smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
7. The Possibility of Infertility
It is also perfectly normal for an adult suffering from cystic fibrosis to want a family and children. However most of the times the disease causes infertility in both males and females.
- In women, her poor growth rate as a child may have suppressed the development of her reproductive system, causing amenorrhea or absence of menstrual bleeding,
- Men are often born with a condition called congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens (CBAVD), which prevents the sperm from traveling to the penis and makes the patient sterile.
Advancements in medical research concerning cystic fibrosis have now made it possible for patients to live many years as adults. Nevertheless, lung function decreases over time due to lung scarring. After some time people aren’t able to do normal physical activities like walking or going up a staircase. Luckily patients can look forward to a new beginning thanks to a lung transplantation.
Disclaimer: This website provides general information about cystic fibrosis and in no means should be taken as a medical or health advice. Please consult your doctor before acting on any of its information.