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Cystic fibrosis (CF)

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that:

  • clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections
  • obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food

In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have further enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. Many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond.

Symptoms of cystic fibrosis

People with CF can have a variety of symptoms, including:

  • very salty-tasting skin
  • persistent coughing, at times with phlegm
  • frequent lung infections
  • wheezing or shortness of breath
  • poor growth/weight gain in spite of a good appetite
  • frequent greasy, bulky stools or difficulty in bowel movements

Our quality and outcomes

BMI is a measure of a person's size based on their weight and height. If the number is too high or too low there may be health problems. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry shows a strong association between a higher BMI percentile and better lung function in children with CF. Gaining weight and growing at a normal rate can be hard for children with CF. Therefore, with CF, a high BMI percentile is better.

This information has been adapted from the CF Foundation website.

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Featured video

Taylor was born with cystic fibrosis. Learn how the care she receives at Children's Hospital allows her to keep doing the things she loves — playing flute, running track and studying ballet.

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