Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects approximately 1 in every 3,600 children in Canada (3500 people), and 1 in every 3,300 people in the United States (30,000 people). It affects 70,000 people worldwide. It is the most common genetic disease affecting the general population, and it can be fatal.
Cystic Fibrosis Facts
CF usually affects the lungs and the digestive system. A defective gene and the protein product it produces allows thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs. This mucus clogs the lungs and obstructs the pancreas and "stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food." (www.cff.org) When the mucus builds up in the lungs it becomes breeding ground for bacteria and if the mucus is not cleared out, the build up of bacteria can lead to cycles of infection and inflammation, which in turn damage delicate lung tissues.
Cystic Fibrosis can also affect the liver, urinary tract, reproductive organs, and sweat glands.
Cystic Fibrosis was first diagnosed in the 1930s and was usually determined only after a child had died of pneumonia and malnutrition. Only 50 years ago, many children born with CF died before they even reached elementary school. Now, many people with CF live into their 30s and 40s.
Approximately 1 in every 25 Canadians and approximately 12 million Americans carry the CF gene. For a baby to be born with Cystic Fibrosis, he/she needs to receive two CF genes - one from the mother, one from the father. If only one parent is a carrier, then the "carrier gene" only will be passed on to the child. A couple who are both carriers have a 25% chance of having a baby with Cystic Fibrosis, a 50% chance of a baby that will not have CF, but will be a carrier, and a 25% chance that the child will not have CF and will not be a carrier.
Signs and Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis
Some of the more common symptoms of CF include:
- skin that tastes very salty
- a persistent cough, usually producing this mucus
- extreme appetite, but no weight gain
- frequent lung infections (pneumonia)
- shortness of breath or wheezing