Symptoms of CF

CF causes the body to produce thick secretions that particularly affect the lungs and digestive tract.

Symptoms of CF include:

  • Persistent cough, particularly with physical effort
  • Some difficulty in breathing or wheezing with physical effort
  • Tiredness, lethargy or an impaired exercise ability.
  • Frequent visits to the toilet.
  • Salt loss in hot weather which may produce weakness.
  • Poor appetite

CF can also affect a number of organs in the body:

Lungs 
It is common for people with CF to encounter some difficulties with their lungs. A combination of airway clearance techniques and medication can help control lung infections and prevent lung damage. To avoid the risk of cross infection, people with CF need to ensure they do not come into close contact with others with CF.

The Digestive System 
CF affects the pancreas (which produces the enzyme needed to digest food) and makes it difficult for people with CF to absorb food. This can cause malnutrition, which can lead to poor growth, physical weakness and delayed puberty. There is medication that can compensate for the failure of the pancreas.See the treatment section of this site for further information.

In older patients, insulin production can become deficient due to increasing pancreatic disease. Some develop CF related diabetes and their blood sugar levels are no longer controlled. However, this rarely happens to children with CF.

Common symptoms of diabetes include thirst, hunger, weight loss and excessive need to urinate, but some people do not show obvious symptoms of diabetes.

Other Affected Organs 
In every ten babies born with CF, one is ill in the first few days of life with a bowel obstruction called meconium ileus. In these cases, the meconium (a thick black material present in the bowels of all newborn babies) is so thick that it blocks the bowel instead of passing through. Babies with meconium ilius often need an urgent operation to relieve and bypass the blockage.

People with CF are prone to osteoporosis (thin, brittle bones) due to the nutritional and other problems involved with the disease. Adults with CF are at an increased risk of osteoporosis because of the adverse effects of steroids taken to control lung disease.

Although Cystic Fibrosis does not cause sexual impotency it can lead to fertility problems. In most men with CF, the tubes that carry sperm are blocked, which causes infertility. Because underweight women are more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles, the nutritional problems associated with CF may affect fertility. However, women with CF do produce healthy, fertile eggs so effective contraception is necessary.

CF can cause the blockage of small ducts in the liver. This only happens to approximately 8% of people who have CF.