Use of medical marijuana in cystic fibrosis patients
The usage and attitudes towards medical marijuana in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients is unknown. Through the use of a survey we aim to clarify rates and reasons for use.
An anonymous survey was sent out to six centers in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Use of and reason for medical marijuana was assessed, along with attitudes of the perceived utility of medical marijuana.
A total of 637 surveys were sent out, and 193 surveys were returned (30.3% return rate). Three did not give consent, and one was empty, for a total of 189 completed surveys. 31 subjects (16.5%) reported having used marijuana for medical purposes in their lifetime, with 29 (15.4%) of these in the past year. The most used forms were edible and vaporized. The most common indications for usage were pain and stress. 28 out of 31 found marijuana to be a great deal effective for their symptoms. 21 of the 31 rated marijuana very important or important to their health. There were two reported side effects, both mild. Of 156 subjects who responded to the question if they would be interested in medical marijuana if available, 72 (46.2%) replied yes.
The use of marijuana for medical reasons was 15.4% in the past year in this sample CF population, although more expressed interest if it was available through prescription. Side effects were rare. CF physicians are going to have to familiarize themselves with advantages and disadvantages of medical marijuana as there is a great deal of interest within the community, and legalization becomes more common.
The availability of and belief in medical marijuana have recently increased dramatically in the United States. Today, 33 states and the District of Columbia have laws permitting its use, giving 63% of the population access . The evidence for the utility of medical marijuana, however, is limited to moderate-quality evidence for chronic pain and spasticity and low-quality evidence for Tourette syndrome, sleep disorders, weight gain in HIV infection and nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy .
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder most commonly diagnosed at birth. The lungs are the cause of mortality in 90% of patients, but morbidity from chronic pain, depression, and anxiety are becoming more common as lifespan has recently increased . Treatment of CF with marijuana is complicated by the fact that marijuana is often smoked or vaporised, and inhalation from any source by somebody with a chronic lung disease is discouraged. There is no evidence that alternative delivery systems such as vaporisation are safer than smoking . Drug interactions, especially with new CF transmembrane modulator therapies, are areas of concern as the chemically active components of marijuana, cannabinoids, have the potential to induce the liver enzyme CYP1A2 .
The current rates and reasons for use of medical marijuana are unknown in the CF population. Only two studies assessing usage rates specifically in CF could be identified in PubMed, both older. The first, published in 1987 by Stern et al., surveyed 173 CF patients and found a 20% marijuana-usage rate .
The other study, published in 1998 by Britto et al., showed a 9.7% prevalence in the 115 CF patients surveyed . This study is an attempt to assess current usage rates and to discern the intake route and reasons for medical marijuana usage in a CF population.
An electronic survey entitled ‘An Anonymous Survey of Alternative and Complimentary Therapies in Cystic Fibrosis’ was sent via email to patients 16 and older in six CF centres in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Institutional Review Board approval was obtained at all sites, and the survey was earlier tested on medical residents. The survey was without compensation. Data were collected from March 2017 through February 2018, during which period there were no legal medical marijuana laws for CF patients in either Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Electronic consent outlined the study length, principle investigator and purpose of the survey. Medical marijuana questions were one part of an overall assessment of the use of alternative medicines. Forty-one questions were asked, all on a single page. RedCap, a secure HIPAA compliant data collection tool, was used to collect and store data.
The data were analyzed using SAS version 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC). Wilcoxon two-sample tests were used to determine whether age group, lung health, or overall health influenced current use of medical marijuana or the use of medical marijuana if it were made legal. A continuity-adjusted chi-squared test was used to determine if gender impacted current or future use of medical marijuana.
Surveys were sent to 637 subjects, with a total return of 193 surveys, for a return rate of 30.3%. Three subjects refused consent, and one subject left the survey completely blank, leaving 189 surveys for analysis. Baseline characteristics, which overall appear to reflect an average adult CF population, are shown in Table 1. Not all questions were answered by all subjects, so the number of responses is slightly variable by question.
Of the 189 survey completions, 31 subjects (16.5%) reported having used marijuana for medical reasons, and 29 subjects (15.4%) reported having done so in the past 12 months. The route of administration used by subjects was diverse, with 90% reporting edible use, 48% vaporised, 38% smoked, 25% oil, 6% tea, and 6% topical. Edible was the preferred method of 48% of the subjects, while vaporized was preferred by 32%, smoked by 13%, and oil by 6%. Reasons for use are listed in Table 2.
Of the 31 subjects who had used marijuana for medical issues, 28 (90.3%) stated that it was highly effective for their symptoms, with one subject each indicating that it was somewhat, only a little, or not at all effective. Of this same group of 31, 21 thought medical marijuana was either important or very important to their health, while six stated that it was somewhat important and four said that it was not at all important. Two subjects of the 31 reported side effects, with one citing drowsiness and the other reporting fatigue, dizziness, and cold hands and feet.
In response to whether they would be interested in trying medical marijuana if it were available, 72 of the 156 subjects who answered the question responded yes (46%). A text response box was provided for giving a reason as to why they would want to try medical marijuana. In the 44 responses from those who had not tried marijuana previously, 10 reported that they would do so for anxiety, nine for musculoskeletal pain, six for appetite stimulation, four for improved breathing, three for sleep aid and one each for coughing, Parkinson’s tremor, bipolar disorder and to expand consciousness.
The Wilcoxon two-sample test used to determine whether age, lung health, or overall health influenced current or future use of medical marijuana did not achieve significance for any variable. There was a trend for current use among younger subjects, which achieved a p-value of 0.062. The continuity-adjusted chi-squared test also showed no significance in the analysis of gender on the current or possible future use of medical marijuana.
Cystic fibrosis is a chronic lung disease that can commonly cause pain, anxiety, depression and insomnia as well as chronic dyspnoea. One study demonstrated that 32.6% of CF patients regularly experience intense to severe pain, while the average rates in adults with CF of anxiety and depression are 21.8 and 27.2% respectively [3, 8]. Medical marijuana has been proposed as a possible treatment for these conditions.
No study has ever documented the usage rates of marijuana specifically for medical use in the CF population. Two prior studies did evaluate the use of recreational marijuana, with a rate of 20% in the study by Stern et al. in 1987, while in 1998 Britto found a rate of 9.7% [6, 7]. In this study, we found a rate of medical marijuana use of 15.4% in the year prior. The reasons for usage in this CF population were varied, with anxiety, musculoskeletal pain and appetite stimulation the most common. Those who used it overwhelmingly found it to be very effective, and adverse events were rare although controlled studies are lacking.
The incidence of medical marijuana use in CF has the potential to increase as this survey was done prior to a legal indication for CF in the states of residence of those surveyed. As reported in this study, 46% of subjects indicated they would be interested in trying marijuana if it were legally available. This would be a substantial rise from the current 15.4% who have used it in the past year.
Use of marijuana has been overall increasing in the U.S. recently, and current rates in the general population mirror usage in this CF population. In a poll conducted in 2018, 14.6% of adults in the U.S. had used marijuana in the past year . In a 2012—2013 poll, the rate of adults in the U.S. who had used marijuana in the past year was 9.5%, while in 2001–2002 the rate was 4.1% .
In comparison to CF and the general usage frequency in the U.S. of about 15%, other disease-specific studies have shown variable, but generally higher, rates. One study in the U.S. analysed utilisation in orthopaedic surgery patients, with 34% of patients using marijuana out of a total of 275 completed surveys . Another study in the U.S., analysing a population with gynaecological cancer, showed a rate of 26.7% of 225 surveys analzyed . A 2004 Canadian study found that 28.8% of 104 patients with HIV reported use . In multiple sclerosis, a Spanish study of 175 patients showed a rate of 17.1%, while in the U.K. in 254 surveys the rate was 30% [14, 15]. A large 2019 study demonstrated a higher usage rate of medical marijuana in younger patients, a trend that was also seen in this study .
It is possible that the somewhat lower rates seen in our survey compared to other chronic diseases is related to the presence of lung disease, which creates a perceived barrier to either smoking or vaporisation. The cigarette smoking rate in the CF population is 2.1%, much lower than 16.9% in 2017 in the general population . This perceived barrier would potentially disappear with legalized medical marijuana as alternative regulated forms like tinctures and creams would be available.
The use of marijuana does not come without potential for side effects, both short and long term. In a 2015 meta-analysis of 79 medical marijuana studies, overall as well as serious adverse events were greater in the marijuana group . Common short-term adverse events were dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, loss of balance and hallucination. A 2010 meta-analysis noted a consistent association between marijuana use and psychotic episodes . Neurocognitive issues, motor vehicle accidents and emergency department visits may also be increased with marijuana use . Deleterious lung effects documented include an increased prevalence of chronic cough, sputum production, wheezing, shortness of breath as well as episodes of acute bronchitis . This lung morbidity could be more deleterious in the CF population which already has underlying pulmonary disease.
Given this, physicians will need to discuss marijuana use with their CF patients and counsel them on the potential for side effects. As importantly, the route of use should be discussed. In this study, vaporisation or smoking marijuana was the preferred delivery for 45% of subjects. In light of their pre-existing lung disease as well as the recent crisis of severe disease with vaporisation, inhalation of marijuana from any delivery system should be discouraged .
A limitation of the study was a somewhat low survey return rate, which could imply bias, but overall the cohort was broad based, with 79% reporting pancreatic insufficiency and 74% perceiving either fair or good lung function, both of which are typical of an adult CF population. The data do capture what a substantial segment of CF patients think about medical marijuana. Questions on medical marijuana use were also part of a larger questionnaire on alternative medicine use, so the results would not have been biased by those specifically interested in the subject.
Compared to the current usage rate in the general U.S. population, the utilisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes was comparable in this specific CF cohort. With increased availability and a patient population that is expected to live longer, usage may increase. Based on this study, CF physicians are going to have to begin incorporating discussions about potential usage of medical marijuana in their patient panels, and concerns about side effects as well as the potential for toxicity with inhalation should be part of that discussion.
Availability of data and materials
The entire data set is kept in RedCap, a secure online electronic database which is password protected. The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
The usage and attitudes towards medical marijuana in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients is unknown. Through the use of a survey we aim to clarify rates and reasons for use. An anonymous survey was sent out to six centers in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Use of and reason for medical marijuana was assessed, along with attitudes of the perceived utility of medical marijuana. A total of 637 surveys were sent out, and 193 surveys were returned (30.3% return rate). Three did not give consent, and one was empty, for a total of 189 completed surveys. 31 subjects (16.5%) reported having used marijuana for medical purposes in their lifetime, with 29 (15.4%) of these in the past year. The most used forms were edible and vaporized. The most common indications for usage were pain and stress. 28 out of 31 found marijuana to be a great deal effective for their symptoms. 21 of the 31 rated marijuana very important or important to their health. There were two reported side effects, both mild. Of 156 subjects who responded to the question if they would be interested in medical marijuana if available, 72 (46.2%) replied yes. The use of marijuana for medical reasons was 15.4% in the past year in this sample CF population, although more expressed interest if it was available through prescription. Side effects were rare. CF physicians are going to have to familiarize themselves with advantages and disadvantages of medical marijuana as there is a great deal of interest within the community, and legalization becomes more common.
Updated on June 29, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disease that often shortens the lifespan significantly. It affects approximately 30,000 people in the U.S., with about 1,000 new cases each year. While there is no cure for cystic fibrosis, treating the symptoms can provide comfort and improved quality of life for patients with the condition. Research on the use of medical marijuana for cystic fibrosis is limited, but the natural treatment option shows promise in treating some of the effects of the disease.
Cystic Fibrosis Video Transcript:
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that alters the body’s respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems. It effects the body’s epithelial cells that compromise the body of the lungs, pancreas, liver, sweat glands, digestive tract and reproductive system. Normally, the epithelial cells release a slippery layer of mucus, capture dust and germs and act as a lubricant. A person with cystic fibrosis inherited a gene that causes the epithelial cells to produce a defective protein. That protein leads to the formation of thick, sticky mucus which causes many serious problems. The sticky mucus can clog the bronchial tubes, interfere with breathing, causing coughing and wheezing, cause fatigue and interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients, which can limit growth and weight gain and cause chronic diarrhea. Common symptoms of cystic fibrosis include persistent coughing, poor weight gain, bulky stools and very salty-tasting skin in infants. Treatment of cystic fibrosis varies according to the stage of the disease and which organs are affected. Learn more below about how medical marijuana can help treat cystic fibrosis.
Why Marijuana Is Effective in Treating Cystic Fibrosis
Medical cannabis for cystic fibrosis can’t cure the disease, but it may offer some relief from symptoms in conjunction with your other treatments and medications.
The cannabinoids in marijuana have a variety of effects on the body, many of which align with the symptoms of cystic fibrosis. While it may not eliminate the symptoms completely, medical cannabis may help lessen the severity of those symptoms.
Certain forms of medical marijuana are known to increase appetite and reduce nausea. This can help with weight loss and loss of appetite. However, it is unlikely to help in the absorption of nutrients, though eating more does increase the chances of a cystic fibrosis patient acquiring nutrients from food.
Aches and pains are sometimes a side effect of the disease, including abdominal and chest pain where the disease has the most impact. Some patients also suffer from kidney stones or gallstones, which also produce pain. Marijuana has a pain-relieving effect that can ease that discomfort.
Another effect of cystic fibrosis in the body is inflammation, particularly in the lungs. Cannabinoids have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. The lungs also do have cannabinoid receptors, so it is possible that weed could reduce inflammation in the lungs.
Some cystic fibrosis patients deal with frequent diarrhea due to the effects of the disease on the digestive system. Cannabinoids may help reduce diarrhea, which in turn helps prevent nutrient loss. This benefit not only makes the patient feel more comfortable, but it also helps the body get the nourishment it needs.
Research on Cannabis and Cystic Fibrosis
There is a very limited amount of material regarding medical marijuana and cystic fibrosis. In fact, it seems very few medical scientists have delved into this area of medical marijuana research. That may change with methods of medical marijuana delivery and synthetic derivatives of cannabis being developed more frequently than in the past.
Now, to say that there is a severe lack of research in this area is not to say there is none. A doctor by the name of Ester Fride did delve into the many possibilities for medical marijuana as cystic fibrosis medication in her paper “Cannabinoids and Cystic Fibrosis: A Novel Approach to Etiology and Therapy.” Not only were the above proven qualities of the drug discussed, but she also went on to suggest that medical marijuana could assist in bronchodilation and act as an anti-inflammatory.
In 1998, Raphael Mechoulam conducted a study on the effects of THC on nausea and vomiting in patients receiving chemotherapy. While the study was not directly related to cystic fibrosis, vomiting does often affect cystic fibrosis patients, contributing to loss of appetite, which can lead to the malnutrition common in the disease. Marijuana could improve the patient’s nausea and vomiting, potentially improving appetite in people suffering from cystic fibrosis.
The objection to children using medical marijuana appears to be the “high” produced by recreational marijuana. Not all medical marijuana produces this effect. One example of medical marijuana that does not produce this high is JWH133. The potential for this medication and others to help individuals with cystic fibrosis has not been established. However, there is hope for future research in the area. Nevertheless, despite the lack of research in some areas of cystic fibrosis and medical marijuana, there is sufficient research on medical marijuana for other diseases to support its use for cystic fibrosis sufferers.
Treating Cystic Fibrosis With Marijuana
THC is the cannabinoid often associated with relief from cystic fibrosis symptoms. Different strains of marijuana have varying levels of THC and other cannabinoids. For example, some are very low in THC while being high in CBD. Others have a more balanced profile or a higher level of THC.
An experienced marijuana doctor can help you find a suitable strain of marijuana that matches your symptoms and your desired effects. Some of the strains that may be beneficial for cystic fibrosis include:
- Early Pearl
- Hollands Hope
- Silver Haze
How you take marijuana for cystic fibrosis is an important decision. Smoking is a common option for taking marijuana with almost instant results, but it is not the best option for patients suffering from cystic fibrosis. Smoking can cause irritation to the lungs. Because cystic fibrosis can cause potentially fatal lung complications, it is not a good idea to damage the lungs further by inhaling smoke. However, there are a number of different ways to ingest medical marijuana, so it is safe for cystic fibrosis sufferers in other forms.
One of those options is vaporizing the weed. In this method, the vaporizer heats up the air around the marijuana to turn it to vapor rather than using combustion like smoking. The lower heating point reduces byproducts created during the process, and it is easier on the lungs. Vaporizing has an almost instant effect on the body, which is a plus for people who want fast relief.
If you don’t like the idea of inhaling the marijuana, edibles may be a suitable alternative. Marijuana-infused edibles come in almost any type of food, including snacks, baked goods and even beverages. Some people prefer the idea of simply eating or drinking something to ingest the marijuana. The effects don’t kick in for anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, but you’ll feel the effects for much longer than you would by smoking or inhaling the cannabis.
Another option is a topical application through the use of lotions, salves, balms or oils. Tinctures are also an option and can be applied under the tongue for fast absorption into your system.
You can use a combination of ingestion methods to create a system that works best for relieving your symptoms. Some people find certain ingestion methods or strains of marijuana ideal for certain parts of the day, while others are better suited for other times. For example, you might use an edible infused with an indica strain an hour or two before bed, so the effects last through the night. In the morning, you might prefer vaporizing an energizing sativa strain for fast results that won’t leave you sleepy.
Possible Side Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana has very few side effects, and they are generally considered to be mild. Many times those side effects can actually be beneficial to patients with cystic fibrosis. Still, it’s important to know what to expect if you choose to treat your symptoms with cannabis.
One of the most notable side effects is a feeling of euphoria or a “high” feeling, particularly with strains high in THC, which is thought to help cystic fibrosis. While some people might not mind this sensation, it may be a problem if you need to drive or maintain a clear mind for work-related tasks.
Another potential side effect is appetite stimulation. In the case of cystic fibrosis, this can be a major benefit since many patients have appetite and nutritional issues.
Marijuana can leave you feeling drowsy, particularly if you choose an indica strain. At nighttime, this can be a bonus, as it may help you sleep better. During the day, however, the drowsiness can interfere with your routine. Using a sativa strain during the day can provide you with the benefits of marijuana with less of a sleepy effect. Sativa tends to have an energizing effect on the body.
Medical cannabis is an affordable alternative treatment option that may help relieve some cystic fibrosis symptoms. If you or a loved one suffers from cystic fibrosis, and you want to explore the possibility of using medical marijuana as part of your treatment plan, we can help. With hundreds of marijuana doctors in all legal marijuana states, we can help you find one near you.
Additional Cystic Fibrosis & Cannabis Resources
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Cystic Fibrosis, check out our resources:
What Is Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects secretions of the body, particularly causing problems in the lungs and digestive system, although it can affect other organs. The primary effect of the condition is a production of mucus, sweat and digestive juices that are thicker than normal. In a person without cystic fibrosis, those secretions are slippery and thin, creating a lubricant-like effect in the body. With cystic fibrosis, a defective gene causes the secretions to become thicker and stickier than normal. Therefore, the secretions create blockages in ducts, passageways and tubes inside the body, rather than providing lubrication. The mucus causes potentially fatal problems in the respiratory and digestive systems, with the lungs and the pancreas often being affected the most.
Cystic fibrosis can cause symptoms as early as birth. Newborns with cystic fibrosis may not have a bowel movement for the first two days of life. Growth may occur later than expected in children, and they may fail to gain appropriate weight for their age. Over the course of the disease, the symptoms may fluctuate between severe and easily manageable. The effect of the disease differs significantly from one person to the next. The most obvious effects of cystic fibrosis are respiratory symptoms. The abnormally thick mucus lines that tubes that bring the air in and out of the lungs, causing problems with lung function.
Some of the effects on the respiratory system include:
- A mucus-filled cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Sinus infection
- Sinus pain
- Poor lung function
- Inability to tolerate exercise
- Frequent lung infections
- Stuffy nose
- Inflammation in nasal passages
The other primary area affected by cystic fibrosis is the digestive system. Weight loss or failure to gain weight is related to the digestive symptoms of cystic fibrosis. The thick mucus inhibits the movement of digestive enzymes from the pancreas to the small intestine by blocking the tube, which makes it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients from food. The food is essentially digested without nourishing the body.
Other digestive symptoms include:
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Pale stools
- Foul-smelling stools
- Greasy stools
- Poor growth
- Intestinal blockage
The body will also secrete increased amounts of salt, leading to salty sweat. Parents may notice the saltiness when they kiss their kids, as the excess makes the skin taste very salty.
The disease can lead to some serious complications depending on the severity of the symptoms. Over time, the condition can cause damage to the body, primarily in the lungs and the digestive system. Some of those complications include:
- Damage to the airways called bronchiectasis, making it difficult to move air and clear mucus from airways
- Growths inside the nose called nasal polyps due to inflammation and swelling
- Coughing up blood due to airway wall thinning
- Pneumothorax, which refers to air collecting between the lungs and the chest wall
- Respiratory failure, causing gradually worsening lung functioning that is potentially life-threatening
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Blockage in the bile duct potentially causing liver problems or gallstones
- Distal intestinal obstruction syndrome, which is an obstruction where the small and large intestines meet
- Electrolyte imbalance due to imbalance of minerals from saltier sweat
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Low blood pressure
Cystic fibrosis can also cause infertility issues. About 97 percent of men with the condition are infertile, although they are not sterile. In other words, the sperm is there, but they are stuck in the testes. This is sometimes due to the lack of a vas deferens, the tube that carries the sperm to the ejaculatory ducts in the penis. In other men, the tube is there, but cystic fibrosis causes a blockage, preventing sperm from passing through the tube. When sperm production is normal, assisted reproductive technology can help men with cystic fibrosis have biological children.
Women with the condition may have fertility issues, but many can successfully have children. Cystic fibrosis causes the cervical mucus to thicken, which sometimes makes it more difficult for the sperm to pass through the cervix. Another factor is ovulation irregularity due to poor nutrition. During pregnancy, women sometimes experience more severe cystic fibrosis symptoms.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, meaning the only way you can get it is from your parents. It happens due to a defect in the gene, but it isn’t just one defect. The defect can be caused by over 1,700 possible mutations, which can make screening more difficult since genetic testing only looks for the most common mutations. This means someone could be a carrier without the screening revealing that.
Some people are carriers of the defective gene without actually having the disease. Approximately 10 million Americans are carriers of the mutated gene. For a child to have cystic fibrosis, both parents must have the defective gene. However, even if both parents have the defective gene, it isn’t certain that the child will have it. The child of two carriers has a 25 percent chance of developing the disease, a 50 percent chance of being a carrier without developing the disease and a 25 percent chance of neither.
Cystic fibrosis affects your lifestyle because it requires daily care. While still disruptive, the quality of life now for patients with cystic fibrosis is significantly better than in the past. Life expectancy has also increased due to better screening and treatments for the condition. On average, many patients live to their mid to late 30s. Some live longer, reaching their 40s or 50s.
Current Treatment for Cystic Fibrosis
Currently, there is no cure for cystic fibrosis. Physicians treat the symptoms of the disease on a case-by-case basis because the effects are often so different from one person to the next. The goal of treatment is to relieve the symptoms themselves and to reduce any complications that happen due to the disease. In particular, doctors aim to prevent and treat infections and intestinal blockages and loosen and remove mucus in the lungs. Ensuring proper nutrition is also a key component in the treatment plan.
Cystic fibrosis is a very complex and serious health condition, so it’s important to work closely with health care providers for your primary treatment. The care team often includes several different specialists with experience in cystic fibrosis to closely monitor your condition and make adjustments to the treatment as needed.
A number of drugs are used to treat the symptoms of cystic fibrosis, including:
- Antibiotics: Infections are common with cystic fibrosis, so patients may need antibiotics to treat those infections. It is important to keep infections under control to prevent further complications.
- Anti-inflammatory medication: Swelling in the airways can complicate cystic fibrosis symptoms. Medications to reduce inflammation can help minimize the swelling, which improves lung functioning and may prevent additional damage to the lungs.
- Mucus-thinning medication: Drugs that help thin the mucus in cystic fibrosis patients can help with lung functioning.Thinner mucus is much easier to clear from the lungs.
- Bronchodilators: These inhaled medications help relax the muscles surrounding the bronchial tubes to help open your airways for easier breathing.
- Oral pancreatic enzymes: These drugs are designed to help the body absorb nutrients from food.
- Ivacaftor: This newer treatment option helps lung functioning and reduces salt in the sweat. It has potentially serious side effects including abnormalities in liver functioning and cataracts.
- Orkambi: Cystic fibrosis patients 12 and up with a particular gene mutation may be eligible for this medication, which combines ivacaftor with lumacaftor for better lung functioning and a lower risk of exacerbations. Potential side effects include chest discomfort, shortness of breath and high blood pressure.
The treatment routine often includes various therapy and rehab. One option is chest physical therapy. This type of therapy often takes place multiple times a day with the goal of loosening the mucus in the lungs. The loosened mucus is much easier to cough up. Clapping cupped hands on the chest, both front and back, is a common method. Another option is a vibrating vest or a breathing tube and mask to loosen the mucus.
Other possible therapy, surgery and treatment options include:
- Physical exercises
- Breathing techniques designed to loosen mucus
- Counseling from a nutritionist
- General counseling
- Oxygen therapy to increase blood oxygen levels
- Feeding tube to ensure you get the nutrition you need
- Nasal polyp removal
- Bowel surgery to remove a blockage
- Lung transplant for severe lung complications
Get information on treating Cystic Fibrosis with medical marijuana. Marijuana doctors can connect you with medical cannabis doctors in your area.