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Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

What are the symptoms of cystic fibrosis?

Many children today are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) before they have any symptoms. Every state offers CF screening as part of their newborn screening programs. If a newborn has a positive result for cystic fibrosis, more tests are done.

CF symptoms vary for each child. Babies born with CF often show symptoms in the first year. But some children may not show symptoms until later in life. The symptoms below may indicate CF, and babies with these symptoms may be tested for CF:

  • Salty skin

  • Diarrhea that doesn’t go away

  • Bad-smelling stools

  • Greasy and bulky stools

  • Long-term (chronic) lung symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and thick material coughed up from the lungs (sputum) that is sometimes bloody

  • Frequent lung infections (pneumonia)

  • Skin tastes very salty

  • Poor weight gain and growth

  • Chronic sinus infection

  • Constipation

The symptoms of CF can be caused by other conditions or health problems. Always see your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Other health problems

Other symptoms and health problems may occur in some children with CF. These include:

  • Nasal polyps or an abnormal growth out of the mucus membranes of the nose

  • Clubbing of fingers and toes. This means widening and rounding of the tips of the fingers and toes. It's caused by not enough oxygen in the blood.

  • Collapsed lung (pneumothorax), caused by air or gas leaking into the area around the lungs

  • Coughing up blood

  • Right-sided heart failure caused by long-term high blood pressure in the lung arteries

  • Belly pain

  • Gas in the intestines

  • Part of the rectum sticks out through the anus (rectal prolapse)

  • Liver disease

  • Diabetes

  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). This organ creates many hormones and enzymes the body needs to work correctly.

  • Gallstones

  • Missing both vas deferens in males at birth. These are the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the urethra.

Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: David A Kaufman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
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