Information for Patients
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited disease of the mucus and sweat glands. It affects mostly your lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses, and sex organs. CF causes your mucus to be thick and sticky. The mucus clogs the lungs, causing breathing problems and making it easy for bacteria to grow. This can lead to repeated lung infections and lung damage.
The symptoms and severity of CF can vary. Some people have serious problems from birth. Others have a milder version of the disease that doesn't show up until they are teens or young adults. Sometimes you will have few symptoms, but later you may have more symptoms.
CF is diagnosed through various tests, such as gene, blood, and sweat tests. There is no cure for CF, but treatments have improved greatly in recent years. In the past, most deaths from CF were in children and teenagers. Today, with improved treatments, some people who have CF are living into their forties, fifties, or older. Treatments may include chest physical therapy, nutritional and respiratory therapies, medicines, and exercise.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Cystic fibrosis Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease characterized by the buildup of thick, sticky mucus that can damage many of the body's organs. The disorder's most common signs and symptoms include progressive damage to the respiratory system and chronic digestive system problems. The features of the disorder and their severity varies among affected individuals.Mucus is a slippery substance that lubricates and protects the linings of the airways, digestive system, reproductive system, and other organs and tissues. In people with cystic fibrosis, the body produces mucus that is abnormally thick and sticky. This abnormal mucus can clog the airways, leading to severe problems with breathing and bacterial infections in the lungs. These infections cause chronic coughing, wheezing, and inflammation. Over time, mucus buildup and infections result in permanent lung damage, including the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis) and cysts in the lungs.Most people with cystic fibrosis also have digestive problems. Some affected babies have meconium ileus, a blockage of the intestine that occurs shortly after birth. Other digestive problems result from a buildup of thick, sticky mucus in the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ that produces insulin (a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels). It also makes enzymes that help digest food. In people with cystic fibrosis, mucus often damages the pancreas, impairing its ability to produce insulin and digestive enzymes. Problems with digestion can lead to diarrhea, malnutrition, poor growth, and weight loss. In adolescence or adulthood, a shortage of insulin can cause a form of diabetes known as cystic fibrosis-related diabetes mellitus (CFRDM).Cystic fibrosis used to be considered a fatal disease of childhood. With improved treatments and better ways to manage the disease, many people with cystic fibrosis now live well into adulthood. Adults with cystic fibrosis experience health problems affecting the respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems. Most men with cystic fibrosis have congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens (CBAVD), a condition in which the tubes that carry sperm (the vas deferens) are blocked by mucus and do not develop properly. Men with CBAVD are unable to father children (infertile) unless they undergo fertility treatment. Women with cystic fibrosis may experience complications in pregnancy.