Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease in which a faulty gene affects the movement of sodium chloride (salt) in and out of certain cells. A child with CF will have thick, heavy, sticky mucus, salty sweat, and their digestive juices become thick. This can result in blockages in the lungs and infections. Eventually, the lungs will become severely damaged. Digestive fluids also become thick which affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food.
The main symptoms of CF include poor growth, a nagging cough, and wheezing. Secondary symptoms include salty tasting skin, a large appetite but no weight gain, and greasy stools.
Cystic fibrosis is treated with antibiotics that battle the infection in the lungs as well as a variety of drugs that will reduce the inflammation in the lungs. Additionally, most children with CF take a pancreatic enzyme supplement. Because the pancreas is affected and cannot supply digestive juices to the lower intestine, this supplement is necessary for proper digestion.
Unfortunately there is no cure for cystic fibrosis; however, new developments in treating the disease are becoming available each year. The progress made in treatment has enabled children with CF to lead pretty normal lives. Thirty years ago most children with CF died as a toddler. Today, the prognosis for a child born with cystic fibrosis is much better. Doctors state that if a child with CF is treated properly and stays fairly healthy otherwise, they are likely to live until his mid 30s.
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