Wednesday, March 11, 2015

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Here is a little bit about what cystic fibrosis is and how it affects the body.  (www.cff.org)

What Is Cystic Fibrosis? 


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a life-threatening genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. An estimated 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide) have CF.

In people with CF, a defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that:

  • Clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections.
  • Obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down food and absorb vital nutrients.
When mucus clogs the lungs, it can make breathing very difficult. The thick mucus also causes bacteria (or germs) to get stuck in the airways, which causes inflammation (or swelling) and infections that lead to lung damage.

Mucus also can block the digestive tract and pancreas. The mucus stops digestive enzymes from getting to the intestines. The body needs these enzymes to break down food, which provides important nutrients to help people grow and stay healthy. People with cystic fibrosis often need to replace these enzymes with medicine they take with their meals and snacks, which helps them digest food and get proper nutrition.



How do people get CF?

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease. People inherit CF from their parents through genes, which also determine many other characteristics, including height, hair color and eye color.
CF is caused by mutations in a gene that produces a protein, called CFTR. The CFTR protein controls the flow of salt and water in and out of the cells of organs like the lungs and pancreas.

To have cystic fibrosis, a person must inherit two copies of the defective CF gene — one copy from each parent. Both parents must have at least one copy of the defective gene.
People with only one copy of the defective CF gene are called carriers, but they do not have the disease themselves. Each time two CF carriers have a child, the chances are:
  • 25 percent (1 in 4) the child will have CF
  • 50 percent (1 in 2) the child will be a carrier but will not have CF
  • 25 percent (1 in 4) the child will not be a carrier and will not have CF
There are more than 1,800 known mutations of the CF gene. Because there are so many, most genetic tests only screen for the most common mutations.

How is CF treated?

Treating a complex disease like CF requires therapies that address problems in different parts of the body, especially the lungs and the digestive system.
Because the type and severity of CF symptoms can differ widely from person to person, there is no typical treatment plan for people with the disease. CF Foundation-accredited care centers work closely with people with CF and their families to create individualized treatment plans.
However, each day, most people with CF typically:
  • Do some form of airway clearance to help loosen and get rid of the thick mucus that can build up in the lungs. Some airway clearance techniques require help from family members, friends or respiratory therapists. Many people with CF use an inflatable vest that vibrates the chest at a high frequency to help loosen and thin mucus.
  • Take inhaled medicines — liquid medicines that are made into a mist or aerosol and then inhaled through a nebulizer. These medicines include antibiotics to fight lung infections and therapies to help keep the airways clear.
  • Take pancreatic enzyme supplement capsules with every meal and most snacks to improve absorption of vital nutrients. People with CF also usually take multivitamins.
The CF Foundation supports research to discover and develop new CF treatments, and maintains a pipeline of potential therapies that target the disease from every angle.
The most recent drug approved for CF, ivacaftor (Kalydeco™), treats the underlying cause of CF in a small number of people with specific mutations of the CF gene. All other CF therapies available today treat the symptoms of CF.

Work is ongoing to find additional CF therapies that could help improve key symptoms of the disease by targeting the disease at its root.


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