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What Factors Affect Life Expectancy with Cystic Fibrosis?

By Thomma Grindstaff
Updated Feb 15, 2024
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The major factors that affect life expectancy with cystic fibrosis are improved medical treatment for the disease and early diagnosis. Cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease, tends to have a low life expectancy, but medical researchers continue to discover ways to help patients with cystic fibrosis live longer and with better quality of life. People with cystic fibrosis must be vigilant in treating their disease and must eat a proper diet. Medical treatments range from drugs to surgery.

Cystic fibrosis interferes with normal production of sweat, mucus and digestive enzymes. The reason why life expectancy with cystic fibrosis tends to be low is because complications of the disease are often fatal. Cystic fibrosis results in thickened mucus and digestive secretions. Thick mucus that accumulates in the lungs poses a high risk of infection to the respiratory system. In the pancreas, thick secretions keep the organ from producing necessary enzymes to digest food, resulting in malnutrition.

Diagnosing cystic fibrosis can be done in infants through a procedure that tests for a high level of salt in their sweat. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can begin, and proper treatment, both clinical and in the home, is key to improving life expectancy with cystic fibrosis. Symptoms of cystic fibrosis concentrate in the respiratory and digestive systems. Since the disease causes thick mucus to interfere with normal lung function, life expectancy with cystic fibrosis can be compromised by recurrent respiratory infections. Patients also suffer from digestive problems that include constipation, poor absorption of nutrients and weight loss.

Life expectancy with cystic fibrosis can be improved through diet. Patients should eat healthful, nutrient-rich meals, and consider taking supplements that will provide them with extra calories and nutrition. Fluid intake is also crucial, since drinking plenty of water helps reduce the thickness of the mucus in patients' lungs, making coughs more productive. Cystic fibrosis patients should avoid smoking or breathing second-hand smoke. They should also strive to get regular exercise, since physical exertion improves respiratory function and encourages movement of sticky mucus.

Though no cure exists for the disease, the prognosis for cystic fibrosis can be made better through use of medications that help control infection and other possible complications. Antibiotics are prescribed for cystic fibrosis patients to prevent respiratory infection. Other medications work to thin mucus in a patient's lungs and mitigate the disease's pernicious effects on the respiratory system. If a patient is severely malnourished, his or her life expectancy can be enhanced by a feeding tube so that he or she can receive crucial nutrients and calories. The progression of cystic fibrosis may necessitate surgery, such as transplanting both lungs or performing an emergency procedure to resolve bowel blockage.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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