Night Sweats and Cystic Fibrosis

Are you suffering from Cystic Fibrosis? If so, you’re probably also suffering from night sweats.

There are over 30,000 American children and adults suffering from this condition. Cystic Fibrosis, or CF, is an inherited, life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs and causes digestion problems. CF directly affects the cells that product mucus, sweat, saliva, and digestive enzymes; all of which are treatment targets of the specialized physicians treating patients with cystic fibrosis.

There are more than 1,000 mutations for the gene for cystic fibrosis. This gene controls the production of a protein that controls how salt is carried across the membranes that separate cells in the body. As a result, physicians developed a test called the “sweat test” to measure chloride (a component of salt produced in the body) levels excreted through the patients sweat to see if the patient carried the gene for CF. In the sweat test, a small electrode is placed on the skin to stimulate many of the body’s Apocrine sweat glands, which are open and empty into hair follicles. If the resulting chloride level is at or above 60mmol/L, a patient is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Treatment regimens for CF patients include one or many of the following:

  1. Tobramycin (TOBI) or Azithromycin (Z-pack): antibiotics that stop the growth of bacteria and spread of germs that could infect the mucus membranes.
  2. Pulmozyme and other mucus thinners: making the thick mucus (a common trait found in CF patients) easier to cough out.
  3. Anti-inflammatory drugs: drugs like Ibuprofen to reduce inflammation or swelling of tissues in the body. CF patients can have inflammations in their lungs, making it laborious to breathe and cough.
  4. Bronchodilators: medicines that open the airway for easier breathing.
  5. Regular physical therapy sessions: CF patients can be taught techniques using vibrations to help loosen mucus in the lungs so it can be coughed out easier.

Lastly, 90% of all CF patients take pancreatic enzymes. Some of the most popular are Pancrease, Pancrecarb, Ultrase, and Creon. These drugs aid in digestion by breaking down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. As we know, the pancreas is a gland in the endocrine system that produces hormones like insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin, all of which are directly related to sweat production and output.

In one study done by physicians from the University of Pennsylvania at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the researchers found that children suffering from CF actually excreted 30-40 times more sweat during the night as children without CF (CF patient=1,482mg vs. Control patient=36mg). They also found up to five times as much sodium and chloride concentration in the sweat produced during the night as when compared to the control children.

The significantly increased rate of night sweating in children with cystic fibrosis continues into adulthood, a time when consistent malabsorption of nutrients can lead to co-morbidities like diabetes, another disorder that induces night sweats either by itself or by the drugs used to treat it. Additionally, increased heat production from laborious respiration and coughing might also result in increased sweating.  Thus, the best treatment plans for patients with CF must include hormone regulation and naturopathic treatments to ease discomfort experienced throughout the night so the patient can wake up refreshed and ready to focus on healthy living.