What is Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is an inherited or genetic disorder that effects around 3,500 Australians. It is not caused by any previous illness suffered by the child or the parents, or by anything that happened during the mother’s pregnancy. It is not contagious either.
CF effects numerous organs in the body but the lungs and pancreas are hardest hit, clogging them with thick, sticky mucus that interrupts their normal function. Excess mucus in the lungs can cause shortness of breath, a chronic cough and repeated chest infections. It also commonly causes blockages that affect the pancreas, and this can significantly limit enzymes being released to digest food, causing problems with poor weight gain and malnutrition due to restricted absorption of essential nutrients.
The type and severity of CF symptoms varies from person to person but almost everyone with cystic fibrosis eventually develops lung disease. At what age and to what extent varies from person to person. The thickened mucus builds up in the airways and reduces airflow, it can build up to such an extent that it plugs the smaller airways of the lungs and bacteria can’t be cleared out, this causes infection.
Effective Airway Clearance Techniques are required to help remove this mucus and reduce the likelihood of infection. Exercise can support this movement of mucus by aiding mobility of the lungs and thoracic cage.
Enzyme supplements, supplementary feeding, and vitamin replacement can all assist with compensating for decreased effectiveness of pancreatic enzymes.
Currently, there is no cure for CF, but the contributing genes have been identified and researchers are working to find ways to repair or replace them, and they are also researching medications to treat the complications caused by Cystic Fibrosis.