Most cystic fibrosis patients suffer from excessive mucus build up in the lungs and respiratory organs. This mucus is a normal substance found in every person but in patients with cystic fibrosis it becomes abnormally thick and sticky. It sticks to the lining of the passageways that go to the lungs and digestive tracts and disrupts the work of those organs. A human being has 23 pairs of chromosomes that are inherited from parents called DNA. If there is a defective gene it is the number seven gene that will be a mutant. A child cannot get cystic fibrosis unless both parents have the mutant gene. They could become a carrier if they inherit the CF gene from one parent. Carriers do not show any cystic fibrosis symptoms but can pass the gene on to their children. If both parents are carriers there is a 25 percent chance one of their child will have cystic fibrosis.
There are many mutations of the cystic fibrosis gene. Some will have more severe symptoms than others born with cystic fibrosis. Scientists estimate that as many as one of every 3600 Caucasian babies born in the United States this year will be born with cystic fibrosis. In comparison, there will be one of every 17,000 African American babies born with the disease, and only one of every 90,000 Asian babies will be born with cystic fibrosis. Scientists estimate that about twelve million Americans are carries of the mutant cystic fibrosis gene.
If you know there is cystic fibrosis in your family, you may want to have genetic testing to see if you or your spouse is a carrier for the disease. This may affect your decision about starting or adding to your family. Testing can be done on parents, family members, siblings, and on unborn or recently born children. In severe cases of cystic fibrosis a doctor may prescribe an oxygen machine. These are used for patients who have damaged lung capacity from the damage mucus has done to the lungs. This condition could be potentially life threatening and a constant supply of oxygen may help. There are many types of oxygen machines on the market including portable oxygen tanks you can take with you when you go out. No longer is a patient confined to his or her house with a big green oxygen tank sitting next to them. There are machines that provide a constant flow of oxygen. It can be set in one room of the house but have long enough hoses to allow the patient to freely roam in their home. Sometimes, a medical doctor may recommend a lung transplant.
The conditions need to be just right for the patient to be put on a list for a potential lung transplant. A lung transplant will not cure cystic fibrosis! Candidates for lung transplants should not have severe damage to other parts of their body, have cancer, are obese, have HIV, or are susceptible to a major psychiatric illness. Patients who do not have these severe complications can be considered for a lung transplant.