What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis?

Most of the symptoms of cystic fibrosis (CF) are caused by the thick, sticky mucus.  The most common symptoms include:

  • Frequent coughing that brings up thick sputum, or phlegm (flem).
  • Frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia.  They can lead to inflammation and permanent lung damage.
  • Salty-tasting skin.
  • Dehydration
  • Infertility (mostly in men).
  • Ongoing diarrhea or bulky, foul-smelling, and greasy stools.
  • Huge appetite but poor weight gain and growth.  This is called "failure to thrive."  It is a result of chronic malnutrition because you do not get enough nutrients from your food.
  • Stomach pain and discomfort caused by too much gas in your intestines.

CF can also lead to other medical problems, including:

  • Sinusitis.  The sinuses are air-filled spaces behind your eyes, nose, and forehead.  They produce mucus and help keep the lining of your nose moist.  When the sinuses become swollen, they get blocked with mucus and can become infected.  Most people with CF develop sinusitis.
  • Bronchiectasis.  Bronchiectasis is a lung disease in which the bronchial tubes, or large airways in your lungs, become stretched out and flabby over time and form pockets where mucus collects.  The mucus provides a breeding ground for bacteria.  This leads to repeated lung infections.  Each infection does more damage to the bronchial tubes.  If not treated, bronchiectasis can lead to serious illness, including respiratory failure.
  • Pancreatitis.  Pancreatitis is inflammation in the pancreas that causes pain.
  • Episodes of intestinal blockage, especially in newborns.
  • Nasal polyps, or growths in your nose, that may require surgery.
  • Clubbing.  Clubbing is the widening and rounding of the tips of your fingers and toes.  It develops because your lungs are not moving enough oxygen into your blood stream.
  • Collapsed lung.  This is also called pneumothorax.
  • Rectal prolapse.  Frequent coughing or problems passing stools may cause rectal tissue from inside you to move out of your rectum.
  • Liver disease due to inflammation or blocked bile ducts.
  • Diabetes - CF regulated diabetes (CFRD) is a unique form of diabetes that requires treatment by professionals.
  • Gallstones.
  • Low bone density because you do not get enough Vitamin D.