One possible complication of cystic fibrosis is bone disease. The digestive problems of CF cause malabsorption, meaning your body can’t take in the vitamins and minerals it needs from food.
This leads to malnutrition, where your body doesn’t have the nutrients it needs to work and stay healthy. If your body doesn’t get the resources it needs to build and maintain healthy bones, the result is bone disease.
Bone Fractures and Transplant Problems
Bone disease can cause many problems, including an increased risk of bone fractures and problems with the lung transplant process.When you have bone disease, your bones are weaker. Strong bones have tiny holes, but weak bones have larger holes, making the bone more brittle. A fall that wouldn’t hurt a person with healthy bones could seriously injure a person with bone disease.Broken bones are not only painful, they can limit your ability to move around. A broken rib can be a big problem for a person with CF, because it makes it harder to cough and clear out the airway.Lung transplant procedures have been improved in recent years, providing hope for many people with CF. Unfortunately, many people’s bones lose some strength following a transplant. If your bones are already fragile going into a transplant, it could cause trouble. Weak bones could prevent you from being a transplant candidate.
Osteopenia is one type of bone disease. To be diagnosed with osteopenia, you would have a bone mineral density T-score between -1.0 and -2.5. These numbers represent the difference between weaker bones and the bones of an average person. Osteopenia can lead to osteoporosis, but not every person with osteopenia goes on to develop osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is more serious than osteopenia. A person with osteoporosis has a bone mineral density T-score below -2.5. One of the goals of CF treatment is to keep your bones healthy before they get to the point you have osteoporosis.
Preventing Bone Diseases for Cystic Fibrosis Patients
For people with CF, it’s important to start promoting healthy bones in childhood and puberty. You’ll have the bones you grow during puberty for the rest of your life, so you need to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs. Your care team will help make sure you’re on the right track by measuring your height and weight. They will also perform a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan, which measures bone density.
There are many ways people can work to preserve bone density:
- Follow the advice of your doctor or nutritionist to get the nutrients you need
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get plenty of calcium from food. Ask your doctor if you should be taking calcium supplements
- Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium. There are water-soluble D vitamins made especially for people with CF
- Always take your enzyme capsules to help your body absorb nutrients
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, and tobacco
- Have an exercise routine to build bone strength
- Be aware that some medications can lower bone density
- Take care of infections as soon as possible to avoid inflammation, which can hurt bones
- Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (CFRD) can damage bones, so get tested for CFRD regularly
- Get a DEXA scan every 1 to 5 years as directed by your doctor
- If you have fractures from bone disease or organ transplants, bisphosphonate medicine can help stop or reverse osteoporosis
If you’d like to know more about CF, we also have articles about Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (CFRD) and CF digestive problems.
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