Because it is a genetic condition that is present at birth, you cannot “get” cystic fibrosis at any age. That said, cystic fibrosis can go undetected until adulthood. Many children are asymptomatic, only to show signs of the disorder as they age.
There is no way to cure or prevent a genetic condition like cystic fibrosis. That said, early detection can go a long way towards ensuring a child lives a happier, healthier, and longer life despite their diagnosis. Doctors that fail to promptly diagnose or address this condition could dramatically reduce a child’s potential quality of life.
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Understanding the Genetic Disorder of Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder than can impact numerous functions within the human body. Primarily, cystic fibrosis affects the lungs, but it can have an impact on the liver, kidneys, intestines, and pancreas as well.
This disorder is rare. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), approximately 30,000 Americans are currently living with the disorder. That said, a much larger percentage of the population are carriers of the cystic fibrosis gene. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, roughly one out of every twenty-five people of Northern European ancestry carry the gene. The disorder only occurs when both parents are carriers of the gene. Even when both carriers have the gene, the odds that a child is born with the disorder are roughly one in four.
The prognosis for infants born with cystic fibrosis has increased dramatically over the years. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the median age of survival for infants with cystic fibrosis in 1959 was six months. Thanks to modern medical advancements and early detection, the average life expectancy is over 30 years for patients.
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Diagnosing Cystic Fibrosis
Every infant goes through a range of diagnostic testing before they are discharged from the hospital. These screens generally test the blood, hearing, vision, and heart of the child. One of the most important blood screens will test for signs of cystic fibrosis. Doctors also rely on sweat testing of a baby to determine if their salt levels indicate the potential for cystic fibrosis. The high salt content in a baby’s sweat is one of the strongest signs that cystic fibrosis is present. If the results of the screen show an increased likelihood of cystic fibrosis, the doctors will order more blood tests specifically targeting the disorder.
Because cystic fibrosis stems from mutations in a particular gene, expectant mothers can be screened for these genes before giving birth. If both parents test positive as carriers, a doctor could seek to test the fetus directly.
Given the consequences of untreated cystic fibrosis, it is rare for adults to learn that they have the condition. However, in rare cases, adults can go most of their life experiencing serious health complications without understanding that cystic fibrosis is responsible.
The Risks of a Delayed Cystic Fibrosis Diagnosis for Individuals
A diagnosis of cystic fibrosis can lead to an immediate reduction in a patient’s life expectancy. Even infants that test positive will see a dramatic reduction in their life expectancy. The consequences of a late diagnosis can be especially difficult, as early detection and treatment are the primary factors in improving a patient’s future prospects.
The health consequences that come with cystic fibrosis can be severe. Some of these consequences include:
- Respiratory distress or failure
- Damaged airways
- Nasal polyps
- Blocked bile duct
- Electrolyte imbalance
Management of cystic fibrosis is possible, especially with early detection. Even patients that only learn they have cystic fibrosis later in life could extend their life expectancy in several ways. The treatment methods revolve around the rapid treatment of the conditions listed above coupled with a healthy lifestyle.
One of the most important methods of managing cystic fibrosis is aggressively treating and preventing infections in the body’s airways. Preventing these infections from taking hold can greatly increase a person’s life expectancy.
Good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are also important steps in managing this condition. It can reduce the likelihood of diabetes and address any nutritional issues that come with the disease.
Ultimately, the goal of these treatments is to eliminate factors that could put the patient at risk of infection or illness. The use of antibiotics, inhalers, and mechanical devices that can clear mucus from the airways represent some of the best options available.
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Learn About Your Right to Pursue Compensation for a Delayed Diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis
While you cannot get cystic fibrosis at any age, any delay in diagnosing this disorder can be costly. Every day that passes without an appropriate diagnosis can reduce a child’s life expectancy. When doctors fail to properly diagnose or treat this genetic condition, they can take years off an infant’s life expectancy.
If your child has experienced avoidable complications from cystic fibrosis due to medical errors, the Birth Injury Lawyers Group might be able to help. Call (800) 222-9529 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your legal options.