Infant Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis, a medical condition marked by difficulties in breathing and digestion, that affects around 300,000 people in the United States. Cystic fibrosis can develop at any age, including infant cystic fibrosis whose parent has been diagnosed with the condition and/or carries an affected gene.

What is Cystic Fibrosis?

Sometimes a life-threatening disease, cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder marked by abnormal glands that produce thicker and more abnormal mucus and sweat. In some cases, the build-up of mucus often resides in the lungs, the digestive tracts, and other areas of the body.

It’s the cystic fibrosis in the lungs that interferes with respiration and sometimes causes life-threatening problems. When an infant has cystic fibrosis, the mucus builds up in the lungs, the pancreas, and the liver, which not only complicate the function of those organs but likewise make the infant prone to infections in those areas.

How is Cystic Fibrosis Life-Threatening?

Not only are the infections in organs such as the liver, lungs, and pancreas dangerous, but most children end up having life-threatening complications from the presence of the mucus in the lungs. As the lungs are one of the last organs to develop in the fetus before birth, and because the fetus doesn’t get practice using the lungs before birth, infants already have a hard time learning to use their lungs.

Yet, when you introduce the challenge of extra mucus in the lungs, the infants have trouble breathing –sometimes the challenge is too much for them. Additionally, the mucus of cystic fibrosis resides in the digestive tract, interfering with the way that newborns process important nutrients.

Often, infants with cystic fibrosis are underweight, have trouble breathing, and have a heightened risk of dying for the condition’s complications.

What is the Cause of Cystic Fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease and can only because via a parent  passing down gene changes to the infant.

There is no way to stop cystic fibrosis, aside from diagnosing a parent with the disorder and informing them that it can be passed down. However, there are several instances in which cystic fibrosis may be considered a birth injury, including:

  • Physicians fail to screen the infant for cystic fibrosis, and therefore fail to provide medical treatment
  • A woman receives eggs, sperm, or an embryo that was not screened for cystic fibrosis (wrongful pregnancy)
  • Misread or improperly performed genetic testing prior to pregnancy

What are the Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis?

If for whatever reason your physician has not diagnosed the baby with cystic fibrosis during pregnancy, there are a number of symptoms that the baby may exhibit, including:

  • Breathlessness
  • Foul-smelling and greasy stool
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Inflamed nasal passages
  • Persistent cough that produces thick spit or mucus
  • Poor weight gain and growth
  • Repeated lung infections
  • Severe constipation
  • Wheezing
  • Salty skin
  • Stomach pain and/or bloating

Keep in mind that not all infants will exhibit every symptom and not all infants will exhibit the same symptoms.

How Do You Treat Cystic Fibrosis?

While there is no cure for cystic fibrosis, there are treatments that can lessen the symptoms and can help the child to live a little more comfortably as long as that is. Treatment may includes:

  • Preventing and controlling lung infections
  • Loosening and removing thick mucus from affected areas
  • Preventing and treating blockages in the digestive tract
  • Providing sufficient nutrition in any way possible, and,
  • Preventing dehydration so that the digestive tract works properly

Long-term Outlook

With proper treatment and nutrition, most babies with cystic fibrosis will go on to grow normally. However, in some instances, children with cystic fibrosis will grow more slowly than other children their age.

In order to promote healthy growth, children with cystic fibrosis are often given special medications, along with high-calorie meals that are loaded with vitamins.

In some cases, children may develop cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, which requires insulin injections prior to mealtime.