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Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, which affects the secreetory glands of a human being (What is Cystic Fibrosis?). Secretory glands, affected by cystic fibrosis, are those that secrete sweat and mucus. The disease is hereditary where the parents pass cystic fibrosis-causing genes to their children. Usually, the parents do not have the disease but they possess the genes that are responsible for causing cystic fibrosis. The children inherit one faulty gene from every parent (What is Cystic Fibrosis?).
Cystic fibrosis affects body organs such as the liver, lungs, kidney, large, and small intestines, and sex organs (What is Cystic Fibrosis?). The walls of these organs are covered with mucus: slippery substance, which protects them from friction, corrosion, drying-out, and from infections. Once a person is infected with cystic fibrosis, the body mucus becomes thick and sticky. They block the airways to the lungs, and the ducts to the pancreas (What is Cystic Fibrosis?). Accumulation of mucus in these areas provides a good breeding ground for bacteria, which causes infection to the lungs and the pancreas.
Other names for cystic fibrosis are fibrocystic disease of the pancreas, CF, mucoviscidosis, pancreatic cystic fibrosis, and mucoviscidosis of the pancreas (Cystic Fibrosis). A gene known as CFTR gene causes cystic fibrosis (Cystic Fibrosis). CFTR gene is a protein that controls movement of water and salt in the body cells. A defect in this gene gives rise to cystic fibrosis. Defect in the gene means that, movement of water and salt in and out of the body cells is not controlled. Uncontrolled movement of water and salt in and out of the body cells causes body mucus to thicken and sticky, and the body sweat becomes very salty.
Symptoms of cystic fibrosis differ with ages. In small children, symptoms of cystic fibrosis may include stunted growth, low weight, lack of bowel movements within the first 48 hours after birth in newborns, and excretion of salty-tasting sweat (Cystic Fibrosis). Symptoms observable in grown-ups may include infertility in men, inflammation of the pancreas, difficulty in breathing, and abnormal enlargement of the stomach. Symptoms that are related to functioning of the bowels include bloating, lack of appetite, nausea, foul-smelling and clay-colored stool, constant stomach upsets, constipation, and loss of weight. Symptoms related to lungs infection include pneumonia, chest pains, increased coughing, difficulty in breathing, congestion of the nasal cavities, and increased mucus in the lungs (Cystic Fibrosis). Other symptoms include dehydration (due to excess salt in sweat), fatigue, asthma, regular infections of the body organs, wheezing, and bronchitis. Signs of cystic fibrosis include presence of high salt levels in one’s sweat, and abnormality of the CFTR gene (Cystic Fibrosis).
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, cystic fibrosis is common among children and adolescents (What is Cystic Fibrosis?). The prevalence rate among children aged between two and fourteen years is high because the disease affects many organs of the body during the early stages of development. The disease affects Caucasians of the Northern and Central European descent. Statistics indicate that one in every twenty-five Caucasian is infected with cystic fibrosis. The disease is also present among the Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians, but in low rates (What is Cystic Fibrosis?).
Cystic fibrosis is hereditary. Parents who are carriers of the gene causing cystic fibrosis pass the genes to their children. A child born of two carrier parents inherit one faulty CFTR gene from each parent, hence becomes infected with the disease. Presence of faulty CFTR genes in the body interferes with the movement of water and salt in and out of the body cells (Cystic Fibrosis). This causes the body mucus to thicken and become sticky. As a result, the mucus become stagnant and they build up on the airways of the lungs and on the ducts of the pancreas. Accumulation of mucus on the airways causes development of bacteria, and consequently causes infections in the lungs, and other respiratory systems. On the other hand, accumulation of mucus on the pancreas ducts inhibits movement of digestive enzymes into the intestines, resulting into lack of assimilation of nutrients into the body (Cystic Fibrosis).
Treatments for cystic fibrosis may include a combination of pharmacotherapy, enzyme therapy, and exercises. Pharmacotherapy involves intake of antibiotics that protect the lungs from bacterial infections and those that treat already existing infections of the lungs and sinus. A patient can either swallow the antibiotics through the mouth or have them injected through the veins (Schoenstadt). Patients can also inhale medicines to help them open the airways (Schoenstadt). Enzyme therapy involve introduction of DNAse enzyme into the body of the patient, which facilitates in thinning of the mucus (Cystic Fibrosis). In cases where the lungs are completely damaged, physicians recommend patients to undergo lungs transplantation. However, cystic fibrosis can be prevented through vaccination. Yearly flu vaccine and PPV (pheumococcal polysaccharide vaccine) in every individual can help in prevention of cystic fibrosis (Cystic Fibrosis).