Understanding Cystic Fibrosis: The Basics
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, meaning you are born with it. It affects the glands that produce mucus and sweat, causing mucus to become thick and sticky.
As the mucus builds up, it can block airways in the lungs. This makes it increasingly harder to breathe.
Understanding Cystic Fibrosis
Mucus buildup also makes it easier for bacteria to grow. This can cause frequent infections in the lungs.
Mucus buildup can also prevent necessary digestive enzymes from reaching your intestines. The body needs these enzymes to digest the nutrients in the food that you eat, such as vitamins and minerals.
People with cystic fibrosis also lose large amounts of salt when they sweat. This can cause an unhealthy imbalance of minerals in your blood. It can lead to:
- Increased heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Heat stroke
- Death in rare cases
About 30,000 Americans have cystic fibrosis. Each year about 1,000 new cases are diagnosed.
Sixty years ago, the disease killed most people before they reached elementary school. Nowadays people with cystic fibrosis generally live into their mid-30s.
What Causes Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic fibrosis happens when in people who inherit the abnormal gene that causes it from their parents.
Both parents must be carriers of the gene that causes the disease. Twenty-five percent of the children of such parents will have cystic fibrosis.
Boys and girls are equally likely to get the disease. About 10 million Americans carry the gene and do not know it. More whites get the disease than do people of other races.