The Affect of Cystic Fibrosis on Children

The Affect of Cystic Fibrosis on Children

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over 4,000 children are born with Cystic Fibrosis in the United States each year. They get the disease when both of their parents have the Delta F508 gene. There are over 1200 mutations of the Cystic Fibrosis gene. Some cause less damage and have milder symptoms than some of the other genes. If you believe you may be a carrier of this mutant gene, you can be genetically tested before you decide to have your first child or add to your family.

The Affect of Cystic Fibrosis on Children

 

A child is normally diagnosed with cystic fibrosis before they are three years old, but sometimes can be diagnosed even in adulthood. The symptoms normally will be displayed around the lungs and in the digestive system of the body. Some children born with cystic fibrosis may experience symptoms as soon as they are born. These children may be born with a condition called meconium ileus. A newborn will pass a thick, dark, putty-like substance through the rectum. Meconium will normally pass through the body and out the rectum in the first couple of days of life. Children with cystic fibrosis will have meconium too thick to pass and it will sometimes completely block the baby’s intestines.

 

A baby that does not experience any problems with meconium ileus may be diagnosed because they are eating normally and still not gaining weight. The mucus is thick and blocking the pancreas, which keeps the pancreatic juices from flowing into the child’s intestines. The intestines cannot absorb the proteins and fats the body needs. This forces the nutrients out of the system instead of being used. A stool sample of the affected child will be oily and bulky. It will also cause a problem with a high risk of deficiencies of the vitamins that are fat-soluble. The result can be abdominal pain, a swollen belly, and excessive gas.

 

Children who are suffering from some of these symptoms may also have a “salty” taste when their parents kiss them because cystic fibrosis also affects the sweat glands. On very hot days they may lose large amounts of salt when they sweat. Children with Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome mimic the same symptoms as cystic fibrosis but fail the “kiss” test because their skin is not salty tasting. Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome is the most common form of pancreatic problem in children. The children have a reduced ability to digest food. Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome is second only to cystic fibrosis in problems with pancreatic insufficiency.

 

A child diagnosed with cystic fibrosis will often have repeated lung infections because they have heavy, discolored mucus. A child with CF may also have problems with nasal congestion, chronic sinus problems, wheezing, and other symptoms that resemble asthma. As the disease progresses, the child may develop a cough that will not go away and that produces heavy, thick, discolored mucus. They will be at risk for repeated lung infections. The child’s breathing is affected and they may have difficulty breathing or feel short of breath if they are resting quietly.

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