Managing the Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder in which certain body fluids, including mucus, digestive juices, and sweat, are thick enough to clog the lungs, ducts and passageways. This causes serious breathing problems and damage to the lungs and digestive system. While there is no cure for cystic fibrosis, with daily care many people with this disease can lead normal lives well into their 40s and 50s.

What Causes Cystic Fibrosis?

This genetic disorder occurs when two parents who are carriers of the gene for cystic fibrosis have a child. The gene mutation causes changes in the way that salt moves in and out of cells. Because of these changes, mucus in the digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems becomes thick and sticky, clogging body passageways instead of lubricating them.

Signs and Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

In all 50 states, newborn screening for this disease is required, which means that parents can prepare for their child’s health needs before birth. Those with this illness experience a persistent cough with wheezing, difficulty breathing, lung infections, clogged nasal passages, inability to exercise, severe constipation, intestinal blockage, and inability to gain weight.

How is Cystic Fibrosis Treated?

Although there is no cure for cystic fibrosis, treatments can help manage symptoms and maintain quality of life. Medications prescribed include antibiotics, which help prevent the chronic lung infections that are a hallmark of this condition; fluid thinning drugs; bronchodilators, which help keep airways clear; and oral enzymes, which help ensure the digestive tract absorbs enough nutrients. In addition to medication, physical therapy and mechanical devices can help loosen clogged chest airways. Pulmonary rehabilitation can often help preserve lung function and promote well-being. In some cases, surgery is required. These procedures may include removal of the nasal polyps that often develop with cystic fibrosis; oxygen therapy; endoscopic suction of mucus from airways; feeding tube; removal of bowel obstruction; or lung transplant.

Key Home Remedies

In addition to these medical treatments, certain lifestyle measures can help keep someone with cystic fibrosis more comfortable. These include proper nutrition and regular exercise, provided the doctor says it’s safe to do so. It’s also important to never expose someone with cystic fibrosis to secondhand smoke. Make sure to always wash your hands and keep immunizations up to date.