What Causes Cystic Fibrosis?

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation estimates there are over 30,000 Americans with cystic fibrosis. This disease affects mostly Caucasians whose ancestors came from northern Europe. It affects all racial and ethnic groups but white Caucasians are more at risk for developing or being a carrier of the defective gene that carries cystic fibrosis.

Average lifespan of a patient diagnosed with cystic fibrosis is 30 years. New technology and scientific advances are making life better and improving predictions of life spans for cystic fibrosis patients.

Cystic fibrosis has the following signs and symptoms but will be different for each individual patient. Patients with cystic fibrosis are often diagnosed before the age of three but diagnoses have been given to teens and adults also. One of the symptoms of cystic fibrosis is a delay in the onset of puberty.

Your teen may experience frequent stomach pain, excessive gas, and be late in entering puberty. Other signs and symptoms of cystic fibrosis are excessive and thick mucus in the lungs, chronic cough that brings up discolored mucus and possibly blood. Frequent upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, asthma, and wheezing may point to a problem with cystic fibrosis.

Another unusual symptom of cystic fibrosis is nasal polyps. These are fleshy growths found inside the nasal cavity. Severe attacks of sinusitis can be an another sign of this devastating disease. Fatigue is a part of having cystic fibrosis and weight loss, or abnormal growth patterns even if the patient is eating a regular and healthy diet.

This is called “failure to thrive” and a doctor should see a child who displays this symptom. If you kiss your baby or toddler and their skin has a salty taste, take them to the doctor for an evaluation. Newborn babies who are unable to pass stools, have colic symptoms, and have excessive gas should also be seen by a health care professional.

Genetics

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease of the glands that produce sweat and mucus. It is often found in the digestive, reproductive, and respiratory system. You can only get this disease if you have parents that each has a mutant abnormal gene. If only one parent has this abnormal gene, you will probably be a carrier but not exhibit any of the diseases symptoms.

The gene that is affected is a gene that produces a protein that moves chloride through the cell membranes. This is a part of sodium chloride or just simple table salt. If this cell is abnormal, the flow of chloride ions and water become blocked because there is a secretion of abnormally thick mucus.

This sticky substance sticks to the walls of the passageways to the respiratory, reproductive, and digestive organs blocking them from receiving the important nutrients they need. It can affect the pancreas, liver, colon, urinary track and lungs. A baby born with the abnormal cystic fibrosis gene usually will show symptoms within their first year. Sometimes symptoms will not begin to appear until the child reaches the age of puberty.