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Secondhand Smoke and Cystic Fibrosis

Secondhand smoke can make lung disease worse, and Johns Hopkins researchers can document it in cases of cystic fibrosis. CF is fatal, and the researchers say many people with CF still wind up breathing other people’s smoke.

The researchers measured lung function by seeing how much air people could breathe out in the first second they tried.

The study found CF patients who were exposed to secondhand smoke had 10 percent less lung function. And some had it worse. Johns Hopkins researcher Garry Cutting:

``If they have a particular genetic abnormality, it doubles the negative effect of secondhand smoke. So they have a 20 percent reduction in lung function.’’

The study in the Journal of the American Medical Association was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Living With Cystic Fibrosis

If you have cystic fibrosis (CF), you should learn as much as you can about the disease and work closely with your doctors to learn how to manage it.

Ongoing medical care is important. You should seek treatment from a team of doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists who specialize in CF. These specialists are often located at CF Foundation Centers in major medical centers.

Good self-care includes:

* Eating a healthy diet
* Avoiding tobacco smoke
* Washing your hands often to reduce your chances of infection
* Exercising frequently
* Drinking lots of fluids
* Doing chest physical therapy every day
* Having annual flu and other appropriate vaccinations
* Taking your medicines as prescribed

You can expect to have a normal sex life.

* Most men with CF are infertile, but they may be helped with modern reproductive techniques.
* Although most women with CF may be less fertile than women who don’t have CF, they usually can have children. Talk to your doctor before becoming pregnant.

Having a positive attitude is also helpful.

If you are a parent of someone with CF, do not feel guilty about passing it on to your child. And do not be overprotective; encourage your child to be active and self-reliant.

Key Points

* Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited disease of your mucus and sweat glands. It affects mostly your lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses, and sex organs.
* In CF, an abnormal gene called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene causes mucus to become thick and sticky. The mucus builds up in the lungs and blocks the airways, creating an environment that makes it easy for bacteria to grow. This leads to repeated serious lung infections that can damage your lungs.
* The mucus can also block tubes, or ducts, in your pancreas so that the digestive enzymes it produces cannot reach the intestines where they are needed to break down food.
* You have extremely salty sweat. When you perspire, your body loses large amounts of salt. This can upset the balance of minerals in your blood, which can cause a heat emergency.
* The most common symptoms of CF are frequent coughing with phlegm, frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia, salty-tasting skin, dehydration, poor growth, and infertility, mostly in men.
* The sweat test is the most common diagnostic test for CF. It measures the amount of salt in your sweat.
* Other tests that can be used to help diagnose CF include a chest x ray, sinus
x ray, lung function tests, analysis of sputum cultures and/or stool samples, and genetic testing of a blood sample.
* Prenatal genetic testing can help you find out if your baby is likely to have CF.
* Antibiotics are the primary treatment for lung problems in CF. They treat airway infections. Other treatments include chest physical therapy, exercise, mucus-thinning drugs, and other medications to reduce inflammation in your airways and help open them up.
* Lung transplantation is an option for some people with CF.
* The digestive problems in people with CF can be managed with nutritional therapy, enemas, mucus-thinning drugs, and medications to reduce stomach acid.
* Ongoing medical care from a team of health care providers who specialize in CF is important. Good self-management includes eating a healthy diet, avoiding tobacco smoke, exercising frequently, doing chest physical therapy every day, drinking lots of fluids, and washing your hands often to reduce your chances of infection.


The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

Copyright Information: Public domain information with acknowledgement given to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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