Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a chronic, progressive, and frequently fatal genetic disease of the glands that produce or secrete sweat and mucus. CF primarily affects the respiratory, digestive, and reproductive tracts in children and young adults. On average, individuals with CF have a lifespan of around 37 years, however, due to advances in treatment, patients born after 2010, are now expected to live in to the sixth decade.
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, about 30,000 Americans have CF. The disease occurs mostly in whites whose ancestors came from northern Europe, although it cuts across all races and ethnic groups. About 3,500 babies are born with the disease each year in the United States. Moreover, about one in every 30 Americans are unaffected carriers of an abnormal CF gene.
CF is often accompanied by the following signs and symptoms:
Conditions such as late onset of puberty, intestinal obstruction, inflammation of the pancreas, cirrhosis (a liver condition), and infertility may also be signs of CF.
CF is caused by a defective gene that tells the body to produce abnormally thick and sticky fluid, called mucus. This mucus builds up in the breathing passages of the lungs and the pancreas, the organ that helps break down and absorb food. This collection of sticky mucus results in life-threatening lung infections and serious digestion problems. The disease may also affect the sweat glands and a man's reproductive system.
CF is caused by inherited genes. To have CF, a child must inherit two abnormal genes -- one from each parent. People who have lower muscle mass, shorter stature, and a low body mass index are more likely to die from the disease prematurely.
A baby born with the CF gene usually has symptoms during its first year, although signs of the disease may not appear until adolescence or even later.
Your child's health care provider can help make a diagnosis and guide you in determining which treatment or combination of therapies will best alleviate symptoms of the disease. Your provider will perform a physical exam and run laboratory tests, including a sweat test, which checks for higher than normal amounts of sodium and chloride in the sweat. Other tests include a sputum test, genetic screening, and a stool analysis. Imaging techniques may help reveal lung conditions and abdominal obstruction.
Currently, it is not possible to prevent CF.
The hope for the future is that gene therapy could repair or replace the defective CF gene. A person with CF might be given the active form of the protein product that is scarce or missing. For now though, the best health care providers can do is ease the symptoms of CF or slow the progression of the disease to improve patients' quality of life.
CF patients suffer from frequent lung infections caused by obstructed breathing. So, the mainstays of treatment are physical therapy, exercise, and medications for reducing the mucus blocking the lung's airways.
Medications are often inhaled and include the following:
Digestive problems caused by CF are managed with these medications:
CF patients with respiratory failure may need a lung transplant. Patients experiencing gastrointestinal obstruction may also require surgery.
A comprehensive treatment plan for CF may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies (CAM). Some supplements and herbs can interfere with certain medications. New research is emerging daily. Always work with knowledgeable providers and make sure to inform your physicians about any and all supplements you are considering using.
Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should speak with your provider before starting any treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, or teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. (5 g) herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following treatments to alleviate respiratory symptoms (such as those experienced from CF) based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.
Use the following treatments under the guidance of a licensed, certified homeopath, in addition to standard medical care provided by a medical doctor:
Acupuncture may alleviate symptoms of cystic fibrosis. Acupuncture may help enhance immune function, normalize digestion, and strengthen respiratory function.
Therapeutic massage can help drain mucus from the lungs.
Respiratory problems are the most common complication from CF.
CF patients receive pulmonary function tests every 3 to 6 months. They also receive chest x-rays every 2 to 4 years, or more often if needed.
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