January 19, 2021
Developments in Cystic Fibrosis Treatments

Developments in Cystic Fibrosis Treatments

Cystic fibrosis is hereditary, brought on by a recessive gene, and is caused by a defect in the cells that produce mucus and sweat.

Most of us take breathing for granted. We inhale and exhale every day, as we go to school and work, work out at home or at practice, and even as we sleep. However, for approximately 200,000 people in the United States, breathing is not this easy, because of a chronic lung disease called cystic fibrosis, or CF.  The mucus and other bodily fluids become thick and sticky, getting stuck in the lungs, other airways, and other passageways in the digestive system, making it hard to breathe.

Cystic fibrosis is life-threatening, and those who suffered from the disease used to have very short life expectancies. However, now patients are capable of living normal lives, able to go to college, get a job, and start a family if they wish. This is largely due in part to the advances and developments in treatments for cystic fibrosis, including medications, supplements, and other kinds of self-care options.

Chest Physical Therapy

Chest physical therapy or CPT can be done in many ways, and can even be done at home, without the help of doctors and other medical professionals. Examples include breathing and coughing patterns, clapping with cupped hands on the back and the chest, and wearing vibrating vests. All of these methods have the same goal, however: loosening and clearing mucus in the lungs so it is easier for patients to cough up the gunk, and so it is easier for them to breathe. It is one of the simplest treatments for cystic fibrosis, and although it is simple, it is effective. There are many different ways to lay to help break up more mucus, and the frequencies and intensities of CPT can be changed based on the severity of the case. There are more complex treatments for cystic fibrosis, but CPT has continued to prove to be one of the best.

Sodium Chloride Supplements

When someone has cystic fibrosis, the channel proteins that work in passageways to allow chloride ions into the body do not do their jobs properly, so cystic fibrosis patients do not have the correct amount of chloride in their systems. This is worsened because sweat glands also do not work properly in CF patients, so even more sodium chloride, commonly known as salt, leaves the body. This consequence of the disease can be remedied by taking sodium chloride supplements. Salt is one of the most important minerals for humans, and it is very important that levels remain steady; too little or too much sodium chloride can have detrimental effects on human health, especially that of people who already suffer from an illness like CF. Sodium chloride supplements can be greatly beneficial.

Lung Transplant

If you saw the 2019 film Five Feet Apart, not only may you have shed a few tears, but you may remember the treatment one of the main characters, Stella, who has cystic fibrosis, receives at the end of the movie: a double lung transplant. This procedure is daunting, risky, and not exactly common, but it often makes CF patients much healthier and extends the life expectancy of them. Replacing the lungs completely with a new pair, assuming that the body responds well to them, gives cystic fibrosis patients functioning airways that won’t allow mucus build-up. A lung transplant is an extreme treatment option with a long road to total recovery, and may not rid a person of their symptoms entirely, but can make managing the disease much easier. Cystic fibrosis is a serious chronic lung disease that causes a build-up of mucus in the lungs and airways, making it hard for patients to breathe.

Treatments are continuing to develop and change, but some of the best and most effective are chest physical therapy, which takes on many different forms, sodium chloride supplements, other kinds of medication, and even a lung transplant. Doctors and researchers are constantly looking for ways to increase the quality of life for CF patients, and maybe one day, they can find a permanent cure.