Cystic Fibrosis Health Center

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited disease of the secretory glands, the tissues of the body that create mucus and sweat. Passed onto children through genetics, the disease develops through two faulty genes, one from each parent. This means that even if a child is born with the disease, it is likely neither parent has it. 

Cystic Fibrosis mainly affects the lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses, and sex organs. 

Mucus is a slippery, water based substance that lines multiple organs inside the human body, preventing them from drying out or catching infection. If you have Cystic Fibrosis, your mucus is instead, thick and sticky, easily building up in the lungs thereby blocking airways. 

In addition to blocking airways, the thick mucus can block tubes within the pancreas which prevents the digestive enzymes the pancreas creates, from reaching the small intestine. These digestive enzymes are one of the main tools the body uses to break down the foods we eat. Without them working properly, the body cannot absorb the necessary fats and proteins that come from food leading to vitamin deficiency, malnutrition and other symptoms including gas, severe constipation, pain and bulky stools. 

This buildup attracts bacteria and provides it a sustainable environment in which to grow. This can lead to repeated lung infections that damage the organs over time. 

Because of this imbalance with the secretory glands, individuals with Cystic Fibrosis typically have salty sweat thereby losing high amounts of the necessary salt content from the body. Dehydration, increased heart rate, fatigue, weakness, decreased blood pressure, heat stroke and sometimes even death could come as a result. 

Having Cystic Fibrosis also puts an individual at increased risk for diabetes and osteoporosis, which causes the bones throughout the body to thin. In men, Cystic Fibrosis causes infertility and for women, may make getting pregnant more difficult. 

Review Date: 
June 28, 2012
Last Updated:
June 30, 2013