Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a potentially life-threatening disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract, sinuses and reproductive organs. This build-up causes serious lung infections and digestion problems.

CF also causes loss of large amounts of salt in the sweat, which upsets the balance of minerals in the blood. This imbalance can lead to dehydration, increased heart rate, fatigue, weakness, low blood pressure, heat stroke and rarely, death.

CF is an inherited disease. In the United States, one in 3500 people are born with the condition. It is most common among Caucasians of Northern European descent and least common among African Americans and Asians. Because CF is present at birth, it is typically diagnosed in children before the age of two, but milder forms of the disease may not be diagnosed until early adulthood.

Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

CF has many different symptoms depending on the person’s age and the organs affected.

Symptoms in newborns:

  • Delayed growth
  • Not gaining weight at a normal rate during childhood
  • No bowel movements within 24-48 hours after birth
  • Skin that tastes salty

Symptoms in adulthood:

  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Infertility
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)

Symptoms related to bowel function:

  • Severe constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Gas, bloating, or a belly that appears swollen
  • Nausea
  • Poor appetite
  • Stools that are pale or clay colored, foul smelling, have mucus, or that float
  • Weight loss

Respiratory symptoms:

  • Coughing or increased mucus in the sinuses or lungs
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal congestion caused by nasal polyps
  • Pneumonia
  • Sinus pain or pressure caused by infection or polyps