Pain of Having Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis, abbreviated CF, is a genetic condition in which a patient’s body produces an abnormally high amount of sweat and mucus. This overproduction of mucus may have serious, painful, or even life-threatening, complications.

Cystic fibrosis commonly affects the respiratory and/or digestive system of a patient. Frequent complications affecting the respiratory system may include:

  • Bronchiectasis – A condition in which the airways become damaged, making it difficult to exchange air and clear mucus from the airways.

  • Chronic or frequent infections – The abnormally thick layers of mucus in a CF patient’s airways provide an ideal breeding ground of bacteria and fungi. CF patients are prone to frequent bronchitis, sinus infections, and pneumonia.

  • Nasal Polyps – A CF patient may experience chronic swelling of the lining of the nose, which may lead to soft, fleshy growths. Nasal polyps may obstruct breathing, particularly during sleep.

  • Hemoptysis – This fancy word means coughing up blood. Though cystic fibrosis is often associated with the thickening of mucus, the condition may also lead to the thinning of the natural lining of airways, leaving the lining more prone to bleeding. Therefore a teenage or adult CF patient may frequently cough blood.

  • Pneumothorax – This is the collection of air between the lungs and the chest wall. More common in older patients with CF, this condition may cause chest pain and shortness of breath.

  • Respiratory Failure – As time goes by and the disease progresses, CF may damage lung tissue so badly that it is no longer able to function properly. Lung function may gradually decrease to the point of becoming life-threatening.

Frequent complications of the digestive system may include:

  • Vitamin and/or nutrient deficiencies – A thick mucus buildup may prevent digestive enzymes from the pancreas reaching the intestines. Without these enzymes reaching their destination, food may not be broken down properly and nutrients may not be absorbed. Insufficient amounts of nutrients may cause numerous problems, including bone loss, nerve damage, diabetes, and anemia.

  • Bile duct blockage – Liver problems and/or gallstones may occur when the tube that carries bile from the liver and gallbladder to the intestine becomes blocked.

  • Intestinal obstruction – Blockage or malformation of the intestines may lead to serious complications and pain.

Additionally, cystic fibrosis patients may experience reproductive problems and/or enzyme imbalances.

The key to treating complications of cystic fibrosis is, of course, to first treat the cystic fibrosis itself. CF does not currently have a cure, but symptoms may be treated and managed with some degree of success. Discuss symptoms and complications with your doctor, who can help determine the best course of action.


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