Cystic fibrosis can cause a range of problems. The lungs and digestive system are the main areas that are affected.

Symptoms tend to start in early childhood,but sometimes they can develop soon after birthand very occasionallythey may not be obvious until adulthood.

Nowadays, cystic fibrosis is usuallydiagnosed before symptoms appear, through screening tests carried out soon after birth. This can cause:

  • recurring Chest infection, adult these occur because mucus in the lungs is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria
  • persistent inflammation of the airways, which can cause them to become abnormally widened ( bronchiectasis )
  • increased coughing
  • occasional wheezing and shortness of breath

Over time, the lungs can become increasingly damaged and may eventually stop working properly.

Digestive system problems

The mucus can also block parts of the digestive system, whichcan affect how food travels through the gut and how it'sbroken down or absorbed.

This can cause:

  • a serious bowel obstructionin the first few days of life (meconium ileus)this will often need an operation to remove the blockage
  • jaundice
  • diarrhoea or large, smelly stools
  • problems putting on weight and growing this can occur because the bodystruggles todigest and absorb nutrients ( malnutrition )
  • diabetes from late childhood or early adulthood this can develop if the pancreas becomes severely damaged

Other problems

People with cystic fibrosis can alsoexperience a number of other problems, including:

  • sinusitis
  • nasal polyps
  • thin,weakened bones ( osteoporosis )this can occur as a result of repeated infections, poor growth, lack of physical activity and malnutrition
  • swelling and pain in the joints ( arthritis or arthralgia) from late childhood
  • difficulty conceiving children most men with cystic fibrosis are unable to have children naturally (although some fertility treatments may still work) because the tubes that carry sperm don't develop correctly; women can become pregnant, however
  • liver problems caused bythe tiny bile ducts in the liver becoming blocked by mucus
  • leaking of small amounts of urine, particularly during coughing fits ( stress incontinence )

Enzymes are proteins that speed up and control chemical reactions, such as digestion, in the body.
The liver is the largest organ in the body. Its main jobs are to secrete bile (to help digestion), detoxify the blood and change food into energy.
Stool (also known as faeces) is the solid waste matter that is passed from the body as a bowel movement.
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016