Cystic Fibrosis - What Happens
cystic fibrosis generally follows certain patterns,
each person's symptoms depend on what is happening with his or her
mucus-producing cells. These kinds of cells are found throughout the body in
many different organs and systems, including the:
- Lungs and respiratory system. People
with cystic fibrosis have thick and sticky mucus that traps bacteria. This
causes lots of lung infections and often causes permanent lung
- Pancreas and digestive system. Mucus can
interfere with how the
pancreas works. This can make it hard for the child
to absorb nutrients from food.
- Sweat glands. You may notice that your child has unusually salty skin. Cystic
fibrosis can cause a person to become easily
dehydrated or to have very low salt levels.
- Reproductive organs. Almost all men who have
cystic fibrosis are unable to father a child. Women who have cystic fibrosis may have more difficulty getting pregnant than other
- Skeletal system. People who have cystic fibrosis may
have weaker bones than other people. This is because their bones contain lower levels of minerals.
Weakened bones can lead to bone
osteoporosis. Cystic fibrosis can also cause swollen
or painful joints (arthropathy or
arthritis). These problems are more common in adults
than in children.
The life expectancy for people
with cystic fibrosis has been steadily increasing. On
average, people who have cystic fibrosis live into their mid-to-late 30s. But new treatments are helping some people to live into
their 40s and longer. People who have a mild form may have a
normal life expectancy.
There is no cure. But
experts are hopeful that the discovery of the cystic fibrosis gene defect may
soon lead to a cure.