Diagnosing Cystic Fibrosis in Newborns

Cystic fibrosis is a disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system. Early detection can make a big difference in the treatment of this life-threatening condition.

Doctors routinely screen newborns for cystic fibrosis using a blood test that checks for abnormally high levels of a chemical released by the pancreas. Another way to test for the disorder is to apply a sweat-inducing chemical to the skin, then test the sweat to see if it is saltier than normal.

“Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition, caused when a person inherits two bad copies of a certain gene,” says Erika E. Westrich, APRN, FNP-BC pediatrician at Saint Francis Medical Center. “While we cannot cure it, many people with cystic fibrosis are living twice as long as they would have years ago. The key is detecting it early in children so we can start treatment right away.”

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