Get to know cystic fibrosis, a disease in the film Five Feet Apart

Get to know cystic fibrosis, a disease in the film Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart is a film adaptation of Rachel Lippincott’s novel of the same name. The film, which was launched in March 2019 in the United States, tells the story of a pair of adolescents with cystic fibrosis who fall in love with each other but cannot come together because of their illness. In fact, the two of them are required to be six feet or about two meters apart when meeting so as not to spread germs to each other that could worsen their disease.

What is cystic fibrosis? Why is the sufferer prohibited from being close to each other? Instead of being confused, let’s look at five facts about this cystic fibrosis.

1. Caused by a gene mutation, not contagious

Cystic fibrosis is caused by a mutation or change in a gene called cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). This gene controls the flow of chloride and fluid into and out of cells. If the CFTR gene doesn’t work properly, chloride can’t draw water so mucus or thick mucus will build up all over the body. This mutated gene must be obtained from both parents. If only one parent has the gene mutation, then the child will only become a carrier, which has the opportunity to pass on cystic fibrosis to the offspring if he marries a fellow carrier.

2. Not only attacking the lungs, other organs can also be attacked by this disease

In the film Five Feet Apart, you will see people with cystic fibrosis using an oxygen tube. This is because their lung function decreases, so they need additional oxygen so that oxygen sufficiency in the body is fulfilled. However, it turns out that this thick mucus can also accumulate in other organs such as the pancreas, liver, intestines, and reproductive organs.

Mucus that accumulates in the pancreas and intestines will interfere with the process of digestion of food. Whereas in the reproductive organs, thick mucus makes it difficult for the sperm and egg to meet, thus disturbing the fertility level of the patient.

3. People with cystic fibrosis are prone to infection

The thick mucus that accumulates in the lungs can block the airway and catch various germs, both viruses and bacteria, which can cause infection and inflammation in the lungs, and even respiratory failure. Therefore, people with cystic fibrosis should be at least six feet or two meters away from fellow sufferers and anyone who has the flu or other contagious infection.

This is because germs can travel as far as six feet if someone coughs or sneezes, so they can land in someone else’s eyes, nose or mouth. In fact, apart from maintaining a distance, sufferers of cystic fibrosis should also wear a mask as a means of personal protection. Basically, the main concern in people with cystic fibrosis is minimizing contact with germs.

5. Treatment for cystic fibrosis takes two hours per day

Every day, people with cystic fibrosis must undergo a series of therapies ranging from drugs to physiotherapy which take up to two hours. Medicines consist of oral medications in the form of pancreatic enzyme supplements to improve digestive function and other multivitamins to boost immunity. In addition, there are also drugs that are inhaled to open the airway, thin out mucus, and antibiotics to fight bacterial infections in the lungs.

Airway clearance is also attempted with various physiotherapy techniques, from simple techniques such as coughing to using an additional device in the form of a vest that functions as a high-frequency chest wall oscillation. This vest can be expanded and connected to a machine that causes the vest to vibrate at a high frequency. It is hoped that the vibration of the vest will loosen the airway and thin out mucus. This therapy lasts for 20-30 minutes.

People with cystic fibrosis are also advised to do regular exercise, such as jogging or cycling. Of course, the type and duration of exercise that can be done must be adjusted to the patient’s condition. Apart from improving lung function, this routine activity can also strengthen bones, improve mood, and improve general health.

5. Life expectancy increases

Although no drug has been found that can prevent gene mutation in this disease, advances in the management of this disease have succeeded in increasing the quality and life expectancy of sufferers. If in the 1950s, people with cystic fibrosis rarely reached school age, nowadays, many sufferers have successfully entered college, have careers, get married, and even have children. Hopefully, along with the increasing sophistication of technology in the field of medicine, one day we can find a cure for this disease!

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