Cystic Fibrosis Overview
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder that occurs when a child inherits a defective copy (mutation) of the same gene from both parents. The disease causes the body to produce abnormally thick and sticky mucus. Over time, the mucus builds up in many of the body's organs and passages, interfering with their normal function.
Cystic fibrosis primarily affects people of white northern-European descent. Although cystic fibrosis is more prevalent in certain populations, the likelihood that someone is a carrier of the disease is more based on a person's family history than ethnicity.
According to the American Lung Association, in the United States:
- Approximately 30,000 Americans have cystic fibrosis.
- Cystic fibrosis is the second most common inherited disorder that develops in childhood and leads to a shortened lifespan. (Sickle cell anemia is the first.).
- Nearly 1,000 new cases of cystic fibrosis are diagnosed each year. Over 80% are diagnosed by age 3 with 10% diagnosed at age 18 or older.
- More than 10 million people are symptomless carriers of the defective gene. Carriers don't develop cystic fibrosis but may pass the defective gene to their children.
- People who develop cystic fibrosis later in life typically have a milder form of the disease than people who develop cystic fibrosis as children.
- The population breakdown of people born with cystic fibrosis is: 1 in 3,200 Caucasians, 1 in 10,500 Native Americans, 1 in 11,500 Hispanics, 1 in 14,000 to 17,000 African Americans, and 1 in 25,500 Asians.
There currently is no cure for cystic fibrosis and people with the disease have a shortened lifespan. Before the 1980s, most cystic fibrosis deaths occurred in children and teenagers. New treatments have both improved the quality of life and extended the lives of people with cystic fibrosis. People with cystic fibrosis now have a life expectancy of approximately 35 years and new treatments under development promise to extend their life expectancy even further.