What Causes Cystic Fibrosis?
About Cystic Fibrosis:
Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited medical condition in which the cells that produce mucous, sweat, and digestive juices get affected. Primarily, the respiratory and the digestive system are affected by this condition; however, the reproductive system and the exocrine glands also get equally affected. Cystic Fibrosis causes the slippery and thin mucous extremely thick such that it obstructs the airways and passages through which food passes for digestion affecting the overall functioning of the body.
Cystic Fibrosis damages the lungs severely such that gas exchange in the lungs is not proper and the affected individual finds breathing extremely difficult. Obstruction in the digestive system causes food to remain undigested causing alternating constipation and diarrhea with greasy stools.
A couple of decades ago individuals with Cystic Fibrosis led a disabled life and were dependent on others to carry out activities. However, with continuous research and advancements in medical science individuals with this condition have a much improved quality of life and in fact can complete their education and become gainfully employed.
However, the overall prognosis for individuals with Cystic Fibrosis remains relatively poor as there is no cure for this condition and most of the people succumb to complications of lung infections as a result of Cystic Fibrosis by the time they are in their fourth decade of life.
What Causes Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited condition meaning that a child inherits the defective gene from the parents. The gene responsible for Cystic Fibrosis is called as Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator or CFTR gene. The function of this gene is to regulate the inflow and outflow of salt and water from the body.
A defective CFTR gene causes the mucous to become thick and sticky such that its movement gets restricted. This leads to a buildup of mucous in various parts of the body especially the lungs, pancreas, intestines, and liver. The amount of salt in the sweat is also increased due to this.
There are many factors which can cause a defect in the CFTR gene. The severity of Cystic Fibrosis is gauged by the type of defect in this gene. It is an autosomal recessive trait meaning that one copy of the defective gene from each parent is required to cause Cystic Fibrosis in a child.
If the child inherits only one copy of the defective gene then he will not go on to develop Cystic Fibrosis even though they will be a carrier of this condition and in the future their offspring may have Cystic Fibrosis.
Caucasians and people from the Northern Europe are most at risk for developing Cystic Fibrosis even though there is no specific group that this condition is common to. People who have a family history of this condition are more at risk for developing Cystic Fibrosis.