Health + Wellness

Cystic Fibrosis: Is it in YOUR genes?

cystic fibrosis

Impacting less than 40,000 people in the U.S., Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a disorder that primarily affects the lungs and intestines. That said, CF has been known to impact multiple organs, including the liver, spleen, esophagus, pancreas, nose, bones, and more. 

The disease is most commonly associated with blocked airways, trapped germs, and a lack of necessary proteins. These three main issues can then lead to lung damage, increased infections, and malnutrition. CF has also been linked to other health problems that it may worsen. Arthritis, diabetes, and osteoporosis are just some of the conditions often associated with CF complications.

Simply put, its effects can be systemic.

But did you know that CF has a major genetic component? Depending on your parents and the genes you’ve inherited, you may be at significantly higher risk of developing the disease. 

Let’s cover everything you need to know about your risk factors and what you can do if you’re diagnosed with CF. 

What Causes Cystic Fibrosis?

In short, heredity. People with CF have issues with something called the CFTR gene, a piece of genetic material that produces the CFTR protein. Now, we all inherit copies of this gene, one from each parent. The problem, however, occurs when both copies have mutations in them. People with family histories of CF may be more likely to inherit two mutated copies.

Your doctor can refer you to a geneticist to be tested for mutations in your CFTR gene. Women who are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant can have what is called a ‘carrier screening’ to determine if they might be carrying the mutated gene. This is especially important if you have a family history of CF.

RELATED: What Black Families Need to Know About Timely Care for Cystic Fibrosis

How is Cystic Fibrosis Detected?

Oftentimes, CF is detected through early screenings at birth. These screenings are part of normal newborn protocols, and will usually pick up on physical symptoms and signs. That said, not all babies show signs of CF. In certain cases, you might not start to show symptoms till you’re an adult. 

These signs and symptoms include: 

  • Persistent, mucus-filled cough 
  • Growths in the nasal passages 
  • Constipation and abnormal stools 
  • Constant lung infections
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Infertility in males

Now, these are just some of the more common symptoms. One of the most dependable ways to detect CF is through a

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