Life threatening Effects of cystic fibrosis
The effects of cystic fibrosis (CF) usually arise in different parts of the body. The cause lies in the typical sticky mucus that builds up in the lungs, the pancreatic duct, the sweat glands, the liver, the intestines and the male reproductive organs.
Damage of cystic fibrosis in the lungs
One of the most drastic effects of CF resides in the lungs. Because of the gluey structure of the mucus, the lungs get clogged and they become an ideal playground for bacteria. Following effects are typical for CF patients:
- Heavy and productive coughing to evacuate the gluey mucus,
- Regular lung infections: the moist environment in the lungs makes it a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Patients often get pneumonia and bronchitis,
- Bronchiectasis or widening of the bronchi which is caused by regular pulmonary infections. Bronchiectasis leads to airflow obstruction and weakened clearance of the secretions,
- Pneumothorax or lung collapsing,
- Coughing up blood (small or large amounts) as a result of pulmonary infection,
- Lung scarring occurs as a reaction of the body to pulmonary infection. Small scar in the lungs don’t pose any problem, but with CF scarring makes the lungs thicker and more rigid making breathing much more difficult.
When the effects of cystic fibrosis go severe, he or she may develop very weak lungs, which can no longer fight bacterial infection. In the end, the lungs will collapse, and there’s a possibility that the patient will die.
Some patients also develop nasal growths, probably due to recurrent infections and allergies. These polyps (small growths of inflamed mucosa) don’t really pose any harmful effects on your body; however, they may have to be removed if they are already becoming annoying or they are obstructing air to properly flow into the lungs.
Clubbing occurs due to improper oxygenation of the fingertips and toes. Clubbing is the enlargement or rounding of the fingertips and toes.
Effects of CF in the Pancreatic Ducts
The pancreas plays an important part in the body since it finalizes the work of breaking down food and it also regulating glucose in the blood.< br/>When a person suffers from cystic fibrosis the sticky mucus covers the pancreatic duct. As a result the body lacks the mechanism to produce the necessary enzymes. A huge portion of food, especially fat and protein will go through the large intestine undigested, leading to the following effects:
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Large and greasy stools
- Gas production
- Foul smelling stools
- Poor growth despite good appetite
- Stomach ache
Intestinal blockage and rectal prolapse
At birth, cystic fibrosis can lead to meconium ileus or distal intestinal obstruction syndrome (DIOS). This intestinal blockage is caused by accumulation of feces, called meconium, shortly following birth.
Later on when the patients grow older intestinal blockages may also occur through thickened stools caused by malabsorption. Thickened stools can also lead to rectal prolapse, a condition where the walls of the rectum become visible through the anus.
Diabetes in cystic fibrosis is caused by the destruction of the pancreas due to fibrosis. Insulin producing islet cells are gradually destroyed and insulin production decreases. Diabetes in CF usually occurs at adulthood.
CF Effects in the Liver
Another of the many effects of cystic fibrosis is the blockage of the bile ducts by sticky mucus. These bile ducts play an important role as they transport bile salts to the pancreas and the small intestines. Blocked bile ducts prevent the bile salts from reaching the pancreas, making digestion less efficient.
In the long run, blocked bile ducts may cause scarring in the liver, which in severe cases causes billiary cirrhosis. This very unusual disorder causes severe problems like:
- Fluid buildup in the abdomen,
- Bleeding from large veins in the intestinal tract,
- Spleen enlargement, which can cause rapid blood loss.
Effects of Cystic Fibrosis on Men
Men suffering from cystic fibrosis have very slim chance of having a child, since the disease can leave them sterile. This is because the sperm cells are not allowed to leave from the testes because of the mucus blocking once again the way.
Effects on sweat glands
Cystic fibrosis transmembrane (CFTR) also interferes in the sweat production. Bigger amounts of salt are secreted from the body while sweating than with healthy people. The consequence is a salty-tasting skin, especially when exercising. As a result, patients get easily dehydrated.
Although Cystic fibrosis is known as a lung disease, the thick and sticky mucus causes problems in different parts of the body as the pancreas, intestines, male reproductive organs… making it a multi-system disorder.
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.