Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common fatal hereditary disease among white children. The flawed gene that causes CF affects glandular secretions by altering chloride transport across cell membranes. Thickening of bronchial secretions leads to infection and other respiratory disorders. Other mucus-secreting glands, sweat glands, and glands of the pancreas are also involved, causing electrolyte imbalance and digestive disturbances.
CF is diagnosed by the increased amounts of sodium and chloride in the sweat, and the gene that results in CF can be identified by DNA analysis. There is no cure at present for CF. Patients are treated to relieve their symptoms, such as by postural drainage, aerosol mists, bronchodilators, antibiotics, and mucolytic agents, which dissolve mucus.
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