Cystic Fibrosis - Treatment Overview
Most people are diagnosed with
cystic fibrosis before they are 1 year old. After a
child is diagnosed, a team of health professionals will build a treatment plan
based on the child's specific health problems. Treatment is different for
everyone but usually involves a combination of medicines and home treatment.
Home treatments include getting rid of
healthy foods , and exercising to help prevent infections and
complications. It can be challenging to follow a
treatment plan, but doing so will help your child live a longer, healthier
The best treatment available is generally found at cystic
fibrosis multidisciplinary specialist centers. These centers address the
medical, nutritional, and emotional needs of people who have cystic fibrosis.
You can locate one by contacting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at www.cff.org.
Many people with cystic fibrosis and their families need
emotional support to help them live with this life-shortening genetic disease.
Support groups, counseling, and educating yourself about the disease can be
Usually, cystic fibrosis causes
problems with both the
digestive systems, although sometimes it causes
problems only in one or the other. Other parts of the body may also be
affected. Lab tests can help your doctor know how
serious the disease is and how it is affecting your child's body.
Your doctor will ask you about your child's
immunizations and will schedule any shots that are needed.
Children with cystic fibrosis should have all the recommended shots in addition
to pneumococcal shots. For more information, see the topic
Your doctor will want to
make sure that your child is eating properly and is gaining weight and growing
at a normal rate. He or she will record your child's weight, height, and head
size in order to keep track of how your child is developing over time.
Your doctor may also talk to you about different therapies used to treat
cystic fibrosis. These include:
Respiratory therapy. Respiratory therapy refers to any treatment that slows down
lung damage and improves breathing. The focus of this therapy is on reducing
infection and getting rid of mucus to keep the lungs healthy. Medicines used in
respiratory therapy include:
- Bronchodilators (such as albuterol or
salmeterol), which are used to make breathing easier. They may also make it
easier to cough up mucus.
- DNase (such as Pulmozyme), which is used to thin mucus
in the lungs.
- Mucolytics (such as acetylcysteine),
to thin mucus in the lungs and also in the intestines. These are not used very
much, because they can irritate the lungs.
- An inhaled saltwater
solution (hypertonic saline), sometimes used to help clear mucus from the
lungs. It is low-cost, and it may help reduce
inflammation in the airways.1, 2