How Cystic Fibrosis Causes Chronic Pain

By Steve Dechan

Cystic fibrosis is a debilitating hereditary disease, affecting the lungs, pancreas, liver, and intestines. Those diagnosed with it have their lives transformed by the everyday struggle of managing their condition and have an average life expectancy of just 40 years.

Although cystic fibrosis is usually regarded as a rare disease, as many as one in every 25 people in the United Kingdom carry the gene that can cause it. Most of these carrier individuals do not have any symptoms. As a result, there are often cases where parents are surprised to find their children exhibiting symptoms. Given that the carrier gene is so widespread, it is important to prioritise finding effective treatment for the pain it inflicts on those who are unfortunate enough to develop this disease.

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Cystic fibrosis causes mucus, sweat and digestive fluids to be much thicker and more viscous than they would otherwise be. This typically leads to a build-up of sticky fluid within the lungs and digestive organs.
When cystic fibrosis patients attempt to expel these fluids from their lungs, they often have fits of intense coughing. This routinely results in ribs being displaced from their original positions. Regular rib displacement can cause sharp back and rib pain on a regular basis.

The cystic fibrosis fluid often also blocks the tubes that carry powerful pancreatic enzymes from the pancreas to the stomach, where they would be used to digest food. This means that these volatile enzymes begin to build up and cause inflammation within the pancreas. Stomach pain is a common consequence of this inflammation.

In one in five cystic fibrosis patients, the cystic fibrosis fluid sometimes blocks the small bowel itself, causing regular abdominal pains. This is known as distal intestinal obstruction syndrome.

Although are the most common forms of chronic pain that affect cystic fibrosis patients, patients typically endure more than form of pain at a time, which can amplify their debilitating impact.

We have a moral responsibility to improve the lives of people in our country that are suffering intense pain, simply due to the fact they were born with this terrible disease. Currently, many are prescribed opioid treatments for relief. These treatments can have remarkably damaging physical and psychological effects. Instead of risking drug dependency, doctors should investigate using high frequency technology to block pain at the nerve. In this way, they can easily and effectively provide pain relief, allowing those with cystic fibrosis to move one step closer to living an ordinary life.