More than 30,000 people live with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) in the United States, with almost 1,000 new cases diagnosed each year. If your doctor has recommended cystic fibrosis tests for you, it's understandable to feel apprehensive.
CF is a serious genetic condition with no cure. But the good news is treatments for cystic fibrosis have advanced a lot in recent years, and people are living longer than ever.
Cystic fibrosis isn't a condition to take lightly, and cystic fibrosis tests are a vital tool. Keep reading this guide to learn all you need to know about cystic fibrosis and the tests used to screen and diagnose this condition.
What is Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that mostly affects the respiratory and digestive systems. CF affects cells that produce digestive juices, mucus, and sweat for your body.
Cystic fibrosis is ultimately fatal, and there is no cure, but treatments have come a long way in extending people's lives.
You get cystic fibrosis by inheriting two defective copies of the CF gene from your parents. You can be a CF carrier if you have one of the faulty genes that cause CF but don't have CF or any symptoms.
Risk factors for Cystic Fibrosis
Since cystic fibrosis is genetic, your family history is the most significant risk factor. Also, CF is most common in white people with Northern European ancestry.
Complications of Cystic Fibrosis
Complications of CF usually affect your lungs, digestive system, and your reproductive organs. Complications include:
- Chronic infections
- Damaged airways
- Growths inside of your nose
- Collapsed lungs
- Coughing up blood
- Periods of severe symptoms
Eventually, CF can damage lung tissue so severely it won't work anymore, and finally, it becomes life-threatening. Respiratory failure is both the most common complication of CF and the common cause of death.
Since CF affects the digestive system too, people with CF often suffer from digestive system complications including:
- Liver disease
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Intestinal blockages
Cystic fibrosis also causes reproductive system complications in both men and women. Most men with CF are infertile because the tube that connects to the testes is blocked with mucus.
Women with CF tend to be less fertile than women without CF. Though it's still possible to get pregnant, women should be aware CF symptoms can worsen during pregnancy.
Other CF complications include osteoporosis, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, depression, and anxiety.
Causes of Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is genetic and caused by errors in the CFTR gene. The CFTR gene is responsible for CFTR protein, and errors in this gene result in CFTR not being made or are malformed and can't function properly.
Bodily secretions such as mucus are usually thin, but a gene defect makes the secretions sticky and very thick with CF. The secretions become so thick that instead of acting like lubricants, they plug up essential tubes and passageways, causing CF symptoms.
There are over 1700 different cystic fibrosis gene mutations, and scientists have since developed a system to classify them based on their CFTR protein production problem.
Treatments for Cystic Fibrosis
Treatment for CF includes close monitoring and early intervention to slow CF progression. The treatment goals include preventing lung infections, removing mucus from the lungs, and ensuring adequate nutrition. Treatments include:
- Medications to target gene mutations
- Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories
- Mucus thinning medications
CF also uses airway clearance techniques, pulmonary rehabilitation, and surgical procedures to improve breathing. CF treatment is complex, so it's best to find a center specialized in cystic fibrosis treatments.
Signs and Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis
Signs and symptoms of CF can vary, depending on the severity of the disease. Even in people already diagnosed with CF, individual symptoms can fluctuate over the years, worsening or improving. People not diagnosed as children usually have milder disease and milder symptoms.
Most cystic fibrosis symptoms affect your respiratory and digestive systems. You've probably heard that people with CF have trouble clearing their airways due to the thick and sticky mucus produced. Other respiratory symptoms include:
- Constant cough with thick mucus
- Frequent lung infections
- Activity intolerance
- Sinus infections
- Nasal passage inflammation
The thick mucus produced in CF also blocks the tubes that take digestive enzymes from your pancreas to the small intestine. Because of this, your body isn't able to absorb the nutrients from food. Digestive symptoms include:
- Greasy and bad-smelling stools
- Poor growth in children
- Underweight or poor weight gain
- Severe constipation
Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor about any signs or symptoms you or a child is experiencing. Be sure to find a doctor that's knowledgeable about CF and is familiar with diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis
Nowadays, the diagnosis of CF starts with newborn screening. All babies get a screening at birth in the US, but each state decides what tests are in the screening.
Newborn screening is vital as a baby can be born with a serious health condition but, at first, seem perfectly healthy. Newborn screening detects severe health conditions that need early intervention and treatment to prevent future health problems.
All babies receive newborn screening in the US, and over 4 million babies get screened each year. The Department of Health and Human Services has a list of recommended health conditions to see all babies screened.
This list is the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel or RUSP. The RUSP includes 35 health conditions which include cystic fibrosis.
Next, if you're pregnant or thinking about starting a family, you'll be offered testing to see if you're a carrier of the CF gene.
If you're an adult who wasn't tested at birth but had many CF symptoms, your doctor may send you for a blood test.
Lab Testing for Cystic Fibrosis
If you're wondering who gets tested, it's anybody at risk for CF or anybody with ongoing CF symptoms. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends screening for all pregnant women.
Ulta Lab Tests offers comprehensive CF blood test panels to screen for CF. Standard blood tests include:
CF Gene Mutations Testing is used to screen for CF and determine if a person is a carrier. CF genetic testing checks for the 23 most common mutations.
A Sweat Chloride Test measures the sweat from a person using a special procedure. The sweat of a person with CF can be five times saltier than usual. The sweat test is a gold standard, highly accurate, and often used in newborn screening.
Doctors also often order a complete blood count (CBC) and a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) to assess overall health and organ function.
Cystic Fibrosis FAQS
The more you know about CF, the better you'll be able to handle everything along the way. It's good to know how far we've come in the fight against CF.
- Before the 1950s, kids with CF rarely lived past five years
- In the 1960s, medical advancements increased life expectancy
- In the 1970s to 1990s, people began living to the age of 30
- Today, people with CF live into their mid-40s
- Over half of adults today with CF work full or part-time
Cystic Fibrosis Tests
Turn to Ulta Lab Tests for your cystic fibrosis tests. Ulta Lab Tests offers tests that are highly accurate and reliable so that you can make informed decisions about your health.
Our test results are secure and confidential at an affordable price, and you don't need insurance or a referral.
Once you order one of our cystic fibrosis tests, you'll typically receive results in 24 to 48 hours. We care about our customers and guarantee you'll be satisfied.
It's time to reclaim your health. Take charge today by getting tested with Ulta Lab Tests.