Cystic fibrosis is a disorder that results in serious damage to the digestive system and lungs. This condition is life threatening and requires care on a daily basis. Even so, many people diagnosed with cystic fibrosis are able to continue with normal activities, including attending school and working. Improvements in both screening as well as treatments in recent years have made it possible for most patients diagnosed with cystic fibrosis to look forward to a far longer lifespan than patients in the past.
Cystic Fibrosis Life Expectancy
Patients diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in the 1980s typically had a life expectancy of fewer than 20 years. Just a decade ago, the average life expectancy for a patient with cystic fibrosis was only 25 years. Patients today can expect an average life expectancy of about 40 years. Babies born today with cystic fibrosis have an increased life expectancy from just four years to more than 30 years. Estimates indicate that patients living with cystic fibrosis in North America have seen more than a 10-year life expectancy increase. An astounding 90 percent of babies affected by this condition are now able to live beyond the first year of life. Research has shown that the life expectancy for children living with cystic fibrosis today may well go beyond 40 years.
A variety of factors can affect a cystic fibrosis patient's health. While adults living with cystic fibrosis had fewer treatment options available to them in the past, children born with the condition today have far more treatment options. Although researchers still do not understand why, women diagnosed with cystic fibrosis typically enjoyed a shorter lifespan in the past. Since 1990, this situation has changed. Research has also found that patients suffering with rarer mutations of the affected gene can typically have a longer life expectancy than individuals who have the more common gene mutations.
Home Remedies for Cystic Fibrosis
Although cystic fibrosis is a serious condition, there are many things you can do to help minimize the complications of this disease. As is the case when starting any new home remedy, it is important to speak to your physician first.
Get More Nutrition
One of the complications of cystic fibrosis is malnourishment. This is because the enzymes that are required for healthy digestion are not able to reach the small intestine. As a result, it becomes difficult for food to be absorbed properly. Individuals with cystic fibrosis typically require 50 percent more calories on a daily basis than people who do not have this condition. Your doctor may prescribe enzyme replacements to help. You might also find that adding high-calorie nutrition supplements is helpful, as well. Other nutritional supplements that may prove to be beneficial include additional fiber, fat-soluble vitamins, and additional salt.
Lifestyle improvements are also important in the management of cystic fibrosis. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure you drink plenty of fluids. This is particularly important during hot weather. Making sure you get enough fluid intake is essential to clearing the airways of the mucus that tends to collect there as a result of cystic fibrosis. Exercising on a regular basis is also important in loosening mucus that can accumulate in the airways. Regular exercise can also help to boost your self-esteem. If you smoke, work on quitting. Make it a point to avoid smoking in your home and your car, where smoke can linger. Finally, make sure you wash your hands on a regular basis. In particular, it is important to make certain you and your family washes your hands before eating as well as after using the restroom. You should also practice frequent hand washing whenever you are near someone who is ill. Frequent hand washing is an important form of protection against infection.
Individuals with cystic fibrosis should also make certain that they receive annual flu vaccinations. While the immune system is not affected by cystic fibrosis, children with this condition are more prone to developing complications as a result of illness.
Medical Treatments for Cystic Fibrosis
Although cystic fibrosis does not have a cure, there are treatments that can help to alleviate complications and symptoms. Early intervention and close monitoring is critical. The management of cystic fibrosis can be complicated. For this reason, patients may find it beneficial to seek treatment at a center specializing in this condition.
Current medications available in the treatment of cystic fibrosis include antibiotics to treat as well as prevent infections in the lungs. Mucus-thinning medications may be used as expectorants to relieve mucus that builds up in the lungs, thus improving overall lung function. Bronchodilators may also be used in relaxing muscles and opening the airways. Oral pancreatic enzymes may also be prescribed to make it easier for the digestive tract to absorb important nutrients.
When the thick mucus that collects in the lungs becomes thinner, it makes it easier to get rid of it. The goal of physical therapy is to loosen this mucus. Physical therapy may be performed several times daily. Such therapy may include using cupped hands to clap on both the back and the front of the chest. Mechanical devices may also be used to perform physical therapy. Options may include an inflatable vest and breathing devices.
Long-term pulmonary rehabilitation may be recommended by your physician with the goal of improving lung function. This type of rehab may be performed on an outpatient basis. Techniques may include exercise training, breathing strategies, nutritional counseling, and techniques that can teach you how to conserve energy. Group counseling may also be offered.
A variety of surgical treatments may also be used, based on recommendations made by your physician. One option is to remove nasal polyps that might make breathing more difficult. Oxygen therapy may also be advised if your blood-oxygen levels begin to decline. In severe cases, a lung transplant may be necessary. This treatment remains controversial because of the associated complications. Since cystic fibrosis can result in digestive problems, a feeding tube may be necessary to help patients better absorb nutrients. In the event a blockage occurs in the bowel, surgery may be necessary.