Treating Cystic Fibrosis With Traditional Medicine

Treating your cystic fibrosis depends on one of two things. First, the number of organ systems involved. And second, their degree of involvement. These are a few of the options your providers will discuss with you.

Treating Your Lungs

Your lungs are one of the most involved systems. Although you can’t stop your lung disease from progressing, you can treat the contributing factors with one of these treatment options.

Gene Therapy

Gene therapies are still developing and used only in clinical trials. So your healthcare provider won’t recommend them for treating your cystic fibrosis at this time. But, with more developments, they may one day be an option. This treatment option addresses the root cause of your cystic fibrosis – gene mutation. Gene therapies correct the genetic defect that causes cystic fibrosis by copying the gene into cells in your airways. Research suggests that a new copy of the gene will help prevent lung disease.

Limitations of Gene Therapy

Gene therapies have great potential, but they aren’t without limitations. There are over 2,000 known genetic mutations. And while they all don’t result in cystic fibrosis, hundreds of them can. So, a genetic therapy for your unique gene involvement may not be available. Next, you can’t cure cystic fibrosis. Genetic therapies can copy the defective gene. But you’ll need to have long-term exposure to that gene copy. Finally, clinical trials have only included single-doses of genetic therapy. We know that multiple doses are needed. But there isn’t available research.

Gene-Based Therapies

Gene-based therapies slow the progression of your lung disease and can help improve your lung function. These common gene-based therapies are recommended for treating cystic fibrosis.


Ivacaftor is a treatment that changes the activity of the CFTR protein. You take it by mouth to increase airway fluid. This does two things. Firstly, it helps clear the mucus from your airways. Secondly, it helps decrease symptom exacerbations. The only downside is that it’s limited for use for children with a specific gene mutation.


Lumacaftor is another treatment for a specific mutation. It is different from Ivacaftor because it treats the most common genetic mutation that causes cystic fibrosis. It improves gene function. As a result, you notice improved lung function and symptoms. Lumacaftor can elevate your liver enzymes. However, healthcare providers don’t think it causes liver problems such as injury or jaundice.


Tezacaftor is a relatively new drug used for treating cystic fibrosis. But, it can’t be used as a stand-alone treatment. Healthcare providers use it along with Ivacaftor for children with a specific gene mutation.

Lung Transplant

Conventional medications are widely prescribed and used for treating your or your loved one’s cystic fibrosis. But sometimes, the lungs are too damaged, and medicines alone aren’t enough. A transplant is probably your next option.

Lung transplants happen only when necessary. By that, it’s a life or death situation. With lung transplants, the damaged lung is replaced by a healthier, donated lung.

Lung transplants are invasive and risky procedures. Yes, they are life-saving in many cases. But your outcome after transplantation depends on many different variables. For instance, these variables may include your condition before surgery, comorbid health conditions, surgical technique, surgical aftercare, and your long-term use of immunosuppressants.

READ MORE about why immunosuppressants are needed after transplantation.

Treating Your Airways

Your airways are part of your respiratory system. They are the small tubes that bring air in and out of your lungs. Many cystic fibrosis treatments focus on clearing the excessive mucus in your airways and protecting your airways from further damage from infections. These are some of your options for treatment.

Antiviral Medications

Chronic viral infections damage your airways and contribute to your lung symptom exacerbation. Prevention is crucial because your cystic fibrosis makes you susceptible to having complications or serious illnesses. We recommend annual immunizations. But sometimes, an infection happens. Antiviral medications help minimize your lung damage. These two antiviral drugs are recommended to treat infections caused by the influenza virus.


You use this dry-powder inhaled medication shortly after symptoms start. It helps to prevent infection to uninfected cells. Its side effects are not life-threatening and are similar to infectious symptoms.

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Nasal symptoms


You use this oral or liquid medication for severe flu infections as soon as symptoms start. Many side effects are gastrointestinal-related, like diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. However, other side effects are possible.

  • Ear disorders
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Psychiatric symptoms such as hallucinations and memory loss

READ MORE about the different types of influenza infections.


Antibiotics treat infections caused by harmful bacteria. Not only do antibiotics get rid of your bacterial infections, but they also help treat your pulmonary exacerbations that happen because of these infections.

Want to know the difference between viral and bacterial infections? Read about their differences here.

Non-Respiratory Infections

Most of your infections affect your respiratory system. But some people develop other non-respiratory viral infections. These infections contribute to your pulmonary exacerbations and result from the Epstein-Barr virus or Varicella-zoster virus. The Epstein-Barr virus isn’t treatable with medication, but it responds well to rest and hydration. On the other hand, the Varicella-zoster virus responds to antiviral medicines.

Treating Your Inflammation

Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Drugs like steroids reduce airway inflammation in some respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD. However, they don’t treat cystic fibrosis. Why not? Healthcare providers don’t think they do much for your inflammation. Aso, they have serious toxicities and side-effects. Over-the-counter medicines like Ibuprofen may help.

Restoring Your Airways

Many things can happen when your body doesn’t make enough water for your airways. Two of those things are airway inflammation and permanent airway damage. You don’t want this to happen because it contributes to recurring infections and breathing problems. These are some of your options to restore the liquid in your airways.

Hypertonic Saline

Hypertonic saline replaces water and electrolytes in your airways. It moistens your airways. Also, it helps to break up some of your thick and sticky mucus. This improves your lung function. Hypertonic saline can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening side effects. Please get immediate medical attention if you have one or more of these symptoms.


Inhaled mannitol is another treatment that helps clear the thick mucus from your airways. We don’t know much about how this happens. But we do know that it helps improve lung function. Like other medical treatments, mannitol has side effects. If you’re using this medication, please be mindful of these symptoms.


Denufosol is another treatment that hydrates your airways and clears mucus. It causes few respiratory side effects.