Editor’s Note: Please consider donating to the Just Breathe Fund, conceived and sponsored by the All Media Freelance, LLC writing team at Freelance Writing Dreams. Read details at the end of this article.
Over 30,000 people, mostly children and young adults, in the U.S. suffer from the chronic disease called cystic fibrosis (CF). This inherited and life-threatening disorder involves a defective gene that affects the lungs and digestive system. The condition causes the normally thin and slippery mucous, sweat, and digestive secretions to become thick and sticky. The thicker consistency of these secretions in a person with CF results in clogged passageways and ducts in organs like the pancreas and lungs.
Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis
As with just about any disease and condition, the symptoms can differ from person to person, depending on a variety of factors. Symptoms appear during infancy in some people and not until adolescence or early adulthood in others. An extremely salty taste to the skin represents one of the first signs that a child may have CF. The defective gene associated with CF also affects the cells that produce sweat, causing excessive salt deposits on the surface of the skin.
Other symptoms involve the respiratory and digestive systems. The thickened mucous lining the airway tubes of the lungs become blocked, causing serious respiratory problems:
- Frequent and serious lung infections
- Frequent and serious sinus infections
- Persistent cough
The pancreas produces enzymes that break down food so that the body can absorb the nutrients and get rid of the waste. The cells lining the pancreatic duct and tube produce overly thick mucous, which blocks the tube responsible for carrying these vital enzymes to the small intestines. Without these enzymes, the food does not get broken down into usable parts for the body to absorb. This causes the following in CF patients:
- Serious blockage in the intestines, common in newborns
- Inadequate growth and weight gain
- Abdominal distention (bloating) caused by constipation or blockage
- Malodorous and greasy stools
Caucasians with a family history of cystic fibrosis have a greater risk of passing the gene on to their offspring.
Health Concerns Associated with CF
The stoppage in these organ systems can lead to serious, often fatal, lung infections and nutritional deficiencies that occur due to the impaired ability of the pancreas to break down foods and absorb nutrients. Prior to the 1960s, most children with this devastating disorder did not live to attend primary school. Until the about the 1980s, most died during their teen years. Modern medical technology and treatments, borne out of extensive research efforts, have made it possible for people to live into their 40s and often years beyond. So what’s the big deal?
Treatments for CF
Even with these advances, people with CF often need intensive (and expensive) treatments. Since no cure exists for CF, treatments only reduce symptoms and help prevent the occurrence of serious complications.
- Antibiotics – often give as a prophylactic to help prevent lung infections from occurring
- Mucous thinners – medications used to thin the mucous and reduce stickiness, allowing the patient to cough up the excess, making breathing easier
- Bronchodilators – drugs inhaled by using a nebulizer or specially designed inhaler. These relax the muscles lining the airways, dilating the bronchial tubes.
Mechanical Medical Devices
- Chest clapper – helps loosen lung mucous by clapping against the chest like a cupped hand clapping on the ribcage
- Inflatable vest – uses high-frequency vibration to loosen mucous in the lungs
- Breathing devices – assists patients with breathing exercises using a special mask or tube connected to the device
- Bowel surgery – surgery to remove compacted blockage in the intestines or to remove part of the intestine that has died or folded in upon itself
- Feeding tube – delivers additional nutrition through a tube inserted in the nose or surgically implanted in the stomach
- Double lung transplant – for those with severe breathing problems, life-threatening respiratory symptoms, or resistance to antibiotics this may represent the only option.
Want to Help Someone with CF?
By donating any amount of money to the Just Breathe Fund, set up by the Dream Team at Freelance Writing Dreams, you can help a young man raise the money needed to receive a life-saving double lung transplant.
Any amount, no matter the size, helps. Just go to the FWD website and click the Donate button in the right sidebar to donate directly to the fund. Freelance writers and business owners may want to purchase a product from our Dream Products page. We donate funds earned from sales of our affiliate products to the fund. To learn more about Jesse, the young man we’ve chosen to sponsor, go here.
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