Cystic Fibrosis

By: Ashley Edwards

What is Cystic Fibrosis?

Cystic Fibrosis was first discovered by an American Pathologist named Dr. Dorothy Andersen in 1938. It is a single gene mutation, where your lungs and digestive system become clogged with thick mucus, resulting in the blockage of airways. This can be shown in the diagram below.

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Symptoms/Effects

There are many side effects of cystic fibrosis that doctors can use to diagnose a patient. Here are a few:


  • thick & sticky mucus
  • coughing/wheezing
  • clubbed fingertips
  • deformed chest
  • malnutrition
  • stomach pain
  • difficulty gaining weight
  • dehydration
  • salty sweat
  • trouble breathing
  • persistent lung infections

How is CF inherited?

Located on chromosome number 7 of humans, cystic fibrosis is a recessive disorder. Therefore, the only way to contract this disease is to inherit the defective gene from each of your parents. Keep in mind though, that your parents don't necessarily have to have the actual disease. They could be heterozygous for the trait and be unaffected by it completely. To show an example, click on the diagram to the left to see how cystic fibrosis is inherited.

How Common is Cystic Fibrosis?

CF is a common disease in the United States. Specifically, it affects Caucasians the most, as oppose to African- Americans. Lastly, it symptoms affect women more severely than men. The chart below shows the chances in inheriting the disorder.
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Life Expectancy

The life expectancy for cystic fibrosis is about 35 years. However, people with moderate cases of CF can live till they are 60 years or older.

Diagnostic Tests

Usually, a doctor uses the basic symptoms of cystic fibrosis to diagnose a person, but their are other tests than can determine if you have the disorder or not. A sweat chloride test, shown in the diagram below, is used to test the salt content in a patient's sweat. This is helpful for diagnosing cystic fibrosis because people with CF tend to have a very high salt content in their sweat compared to the average person. This procedure can be done by pulsing a small electric current through their arm, which will help produce enough sweat to test. Lastly, chest x-rays are also helpful for diagnosing CF because your lungs are drastically affected by the disorder.

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Prevention/Treatment

Currently, there is no way to prevent cystic fibrosis, since it is a genetically-inherited disorder. Also, there are no cures for it either, but treatment options are available. For example, getting plenty of nutrition and maintaining as clear lungs as possible will help fight against cystic fibrosis. Additionally, a vibrating vest has been invented to help shake the mucus so it is easier to cough up. A picture of this can be shown at the right. Finally, chest physical therapy can help treat patients with CF, too.

Organizations/Support Groups

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is the top organization group for treating and funding CF in the United States. Help fight cystic fibrosis by donating today.

Cystic Fibrosis Research Inc.

The Cystic Fibrosis Research Inc. is a non-profit organization helping those who are suffering from CF. Call their number now to see how you can make a difference.