Cystic Fibrosis causes the build up of sticky mucus in the lungs which overtime can cause breathing problems, increases the risk of lung infection and the lungs may stop working properly.
Mucus also clogs the pancreas (the organ that releases enzymes for digestion) which stops enzymes reaching the gut to help with digestion.
- Recurring chest infections
- Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and damage to the airways (bronchiectasis)
- Difficulty putting on weight or growing
- Yellowing of skin and whites of eyes (jaundice)
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- A bowel obstruction in newborn babies (meconium ileus)
People may also develop related conditions such as diabetes, thin/weakened bones (osteoporosis), male infertility, and liver problems. Cystic Fibrosis is tested in all newborn babies as part of the newborn blood spot test (heel prick test) carried out shortly after birth.
If this screening suggests that they may have Cystic Fibrosis, they’ll need additional tests to confirm if they have it:
- A sweat test – to measure the amount of salt in sweat, which is abnormally high in someone with Cystic Fibrosis
- A genetic test – where a sample of blood or saliva is checked for the faulty gene that causes Cystic Fibrosis.
These tests can also be used on older children and adults who weren’t tested as newborns.
A genetic test can also be used to test if someone is a “carrier” of Cystic Fibrosis in cases where the condition runs in the family. This test can be important for someone who thinks they have the gene and wants to have children.
There’s no cure for Cystic Fibrosis currently, but there are a range of treatments available to help control the symptoms, prevent or reduce complications and make the condition easier to live with. People with Cystic Fibrosis may need to take different medicines to treat and prevent lung problems. Physical activity and the use of airway clearance techniques may also be recommended to clear mucus from the lungs.