Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

Medical Concept- Cystic Fibrosis word written on blackboard with

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition which causes the patient’s body to rapidly produce abnormally excessive mucus and sweat. While most people associate mucus with the phlegm that gathers in the nose and throat during a cold, mucus is produced in many areas of the body, including many organs in the digestive system. Since mucus is present in many areas of the body, cystic fibrosis may affect any or all of these areas.

Cystic fibrosis may affect patients differently, causing one patient to have radically different symptoms from another. Symptoms may even change over time for an individual patient. Though CF is a genetic condition that a patient has from birth, not all patients exhibit symptoms early on. Some patients may not experience CF symptoms until adolescence or even adulthood.

One symptom that seems to occur fairly consistently is the abnormally high production of sweat. This often begins in infancy, and parents or caregivers often notice a salty taste when kissing an affected baby. This high sweat production will continue through life.

Outside of uncommonly high sweat production, the most commonly affected systems in the body affected by CF are the respiratory system and the digestive system. Symptoms that may occur in a patient with an affected respiratory system may include:

  • Persistent, chronic cough that may produce thick sputum

  • Wheezing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Difficulty exercising

  • Frequent lung infections, bronchitis, and/or sinus infections

  • Chronically inflamed nasal passages/stuffy nose

Patients with an affected digestive system may experience:

  • Poor weight gain and delayed growth

  • Intestinal blockages, commonly in newborns

  • Foul-smelling stool

  • Greasy or bulky stool

  • Chronic severe constipation or gas

  • Frequent stomach pains

  • Low bone density

CF screening is standard for all babies born in the United States, so the condition is often diagnosed within the first month of life. Since early treatment is crucial to living a long life, this routine screening is absolutely invaluable. However, the screening is not 100% foolproof, so if you or your child is experiencing symptoms that may be linked to CF, schedule an appointment with your doctor, who may wish to repeat the tests.

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