Cystic fibrosis is a chronic and progressive disease, usually
diagnosed in childhood, that causes mucus to become thick and sticky. The mucus
builds up and clogs passages in the lungs, pancreas, and many other organs in
In the lungs, cystic fibrosis causes
respiratory problems when thicker-than-normal mucus forms in the airways and
lungs. Children who have cystic fibrosis almost always have breathing problems
and frequent lung infections.
In the pancreas, the mucus blockage
can interfere with normal digestive processes and increase the risk of
infection. Babies and children who have cystic fibrosis may not be able to
absorb nutrients from food and may have below-normal growth and development.
Weight loss and difficulty gaining or maintaining weight are common problems
for people of all ages who have cystic fibrosis.
Early symptoms of cystic fibrosis include abnormally salty sweat or
skin and a failure to thrive, which includes a poor appetite, lack of energy,
and weight loss during infancy. Some babies who have cystic fibrosis are born
with a blocked small intestine. Later symptoms include coughing up mucus and a
lack of energy. Adults who have cystic fibrosis may have fertility
There is no cure for cystic fibrosis. Management of the disease
varies from person to person and generally focuses on treating respiratory and
digestive problems to prevent infection and other complications. Treatment
usually involves a combination of medicines and home treatment methods, such as
respiratory and nutritional therapies.
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology