Telltale Signs and Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

Infant having difficulty in breathing

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  • There are different symptoms of cystic fibrosis that can manifest in individuals who suffer from this genetic condition. They usually vary from one person to another, and depend on the severity of the condition
  • In some patients, signs of cystic fibrosis can appear as early as infancy, or at birth. Meanwhile, other people who have cystic fibrosis may not show symptoms until after puberty or even during adulthood

There are different symptoms of cystic fibrosis that can manifest in individuals who suffer from this genetic condition. They usually vary from one person to another, and depend on the severity of the condition. In some patients, signs of cystic fibrosis can appear as early as infancy, or at birth. Infants with cystic fibrosis may have a strong and salty taste on their skin, which parents may notice when they kiss the child. Babies with this condition also do not pass stool after they are born.1

Meanwhile, other people who have cystic fibrosis may not show symptoms until after puberty or even during adulthood. Over time, these hallmarks can either get better or progress into something much worse.2 Cystic fibrosis symptoms can vary depending on the part of the body that the condition affects.

Respiratory Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

Once the thick and sticky mucus (sputum) that comes with this condition clogs up the tubes that bring air to and from your lungs, these signs may manifest:3

A persistent cough that comes with thick (sometimes bloody4) mucus

Inflamed nasal passages or a stuffy nose

Breathlessness

Wheezing

Exercise intolerance

Repeated lung infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia

The lung infections that may manifest in people with CF may be caused by germs that do not respond to the usual antibiotics. One example is the mucoid Pseudomonas bacteria. Having frequent bouts of sinusitis (infection of the sinuses) is also common in patients with cystic fibrosis. Bronchitis and pneumonia may be a constant dilemma as well, which, over time, can lead to long-term lung damage.

When cystic fibrosis in the respiratory system worsens, other more serious effects may be seen, such as pneumothorax5 (or a collapsed lung) or bronchiectasis6 (permanent enlargement of bronchial tubes). Some individuals also develop polyps in their nasal passages, which may then require surgery.7

Digestive Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

When the sputum obstructs the tubes that carry digestive enzymes from the pancreas to the small intestines, different digestive problems may occur. This leads to an inability to completely absorb nutrients from the food you eat, resulting in effects like:

Poor weight gain and growth

Greasy and foul-smelling stools

Severe constipation

Intestinal blockage, particularly in newborns (meconium ileus)

Rectal prolapse, a condition wherein the end of the large intestines protrudes outside the anus, may occur as well, because of frequent straining when passing stools. This may sometimes require surgery.8 Other severe effects that cystic fibrosis may have on the digestive system include:9

Pancreatitis inflammation of the pancreas

Liver disease, which is often caused by inflamed or blocked bile ducts

Diabetes

Gallstones

Other Cystic Fibrosis Signs to Watch Out For

Infertility is one of the signs that cystic fibrosis has affected your reproductive system. Men often experience this since they’re born without a vas deferens, or the tube that brings sperm from the testes to the penis. In women, mucus blocking the cervix, as well as other complications, may lead to difficulties in getting pregnant. Other symptoms of cystic fibrosis include:10

Clubbing — This is when the tips of your fingers and toes widen and become rounded. This is usually a late symptom of CF, and occurs because your lungs aren't moving sufficient amounts of oxygen into your bloodstream.

Low bone density — This is also a late symptoms of cystic fibrosis, and can lead to osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disorder.

Insufficient salt in the body — Expelling large amounts of salt through your sweat may lead to dehydration, fatigue, weakness, low blood pressure, heat stroke and increased heart rate. In rare cases, it can lead to death.

MORE ABOUT CYSTIC FIBROSIS

Cystic Fibrosis: Introduction

What Is Cystic Fibrosis?

Cystic Fibrosis Symptoms

Cystic Fibrosis Causes

Cystic Fibrosis Treatment

Cystic Fibrosis Prevention

Cystic Fibrosis Diet

Cystic Fibrosis FAQ


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