Extending the Life Expectancy of a Person with Cystic Fibrosis
People who are afflicted with cystic fibrosis generally have a low life expectancy. However, with recent developments in cystic fibrosis research, people who are suffering from this disease can look forward to the possibility of living better and raising their life expectancy.
The Nature of Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease. It is caused by mutations in the cystic fibrosis trans-membrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene, which regulates the production of mucus, sweat and digestive enzymes. For a person to have cystic fibrosis, both his parents have to be carriers of this mutated CFTR gene.
This ailment does not have a known cure as yet, but it is very much manageable if it is diagnosed early and treated carefully. What makes life expectancy so short for people who have cystic fibrosis is the fact that it can lead to many complications that can be fatal if left untreated.
- For one, people with cystic fibrosis often have serious respiratory problems and compromised immune systems. They typically develop thick mucus in their lungs. The mucus has to be cleared, or else it becomes a fertile breeding ground for bacteria.
- Unchecked invasion of bacteria can lead to inflammation of the lungs and the respiratory tract, making breathing very difficult. There are many patients with cystic fibrosis whose lungs have become so bad that they need lung transplants.
- A person with cystic fibrosis also cannot properly digest the nutrients of food. His pancreas does not produce enough enzymes to break food down and absorb the nutrients from it. Moreover, his breathing difficulties often lead him to burn more calories than normal. So, it is not unusual for a person with cystic fibrosis to be affected by malnutrition as well.
Improving Life Expectancy for Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Cystic fibrosis does not have a cure, but it is manageable and treatable. The key to improving the life expectancy of a person with cystic fibrosis is early diagnosis as well as a good treatment regimen that is done continuously and consistently.
The diagnosis can be done right before the infant is born. Parents who are planning or expecting a child can get themselves tested to see if they are carriers of the defective CFTR gene and to see if their baby has cystic fibrosis. For newborn babies and small children, the test used is called the sweat test. The sweat test measures the amount of salt in a person’s sweat, since people with cystic fibrosis have more salt in the sweat they secrete.
Once diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, the patient will have to rely on a number of medications. He will need antibiotics to fight against infections, mucus thinners, and nebulizers or inhalers to help him breathe and keep his air tracts free from mucus. He will also need physical therapy, wherein his chest will be massaged every day to ease out the mucus buildup. Lung transplant is used more frequently these days to extend the life of cystic fibrosis patients. Records are broken daily and patients finally have a positive outlook.
Proper diet is also important for people who live with cystic fibrosis. Eating nutritious food and supplements ensures that the body will still get enough nutrients even if it cannot break food down properly and absorb the vitamins and minerals that it needs. To help digest food, the patient would need pancreatic enzyme supplements as well.
Life expectancy is low for people who live with cystic fibrosis. However, with the right care and treatment, a person with cystic fibrosis can expect to extend his life expectancy to live many years as an adult.
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.