Cystic Fibrosis

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Cystic fibrosis (CF) affects the respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems by producing an overabundance of secretions, such as mucus in the lungs or enzymes in the pancreas.

The excess secretions thicken and clog the airways, digestive tracts and reproductive tubes. They kill cells and prevent normal bodily functions.

Most cases of cystic fibrosis are diagnosed in children.

In some cases, however, symptoms don’t show up until adulthood or are so mild at a young age they don’t suggest a diagnosis of CF.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms experienced by previously undiagnosed adults can include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Wheezing
  • Recurring lung infections
  • Pancreatitis

Risk Factors

Cystic fibrosis is genetic and is not contagious. It’s caused by a mutated gene called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator. Both parents must carry the mutated gene for their child to contract CF.

It is possible for a person to be an unknowing carrier of the mutated gene. If both of your parents are carriers, you have a one in four chance of developing CF. About 30,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed.

Testing and Diagnosis

Testing to diagnose cystic fibrosis in adults may include:


taking-pills.jpg__300x200_q100_subject_location-500,350_subsampling-2.jpgThere is not yet a cure for cystic fibrosis. However, medical advancements have improved treatment to allow patients to better manage the symptoms.

The average life expectancy for a person with CF is in the mid-30s, but people with the disease can live into their 40s.

Once diagnosed, daily treatments are key to managing symptoms and maintaining normal functions as long as possible.

The multidisciplinary teams at OSF HeathCare will work with you to help you live your life to the fullest.

Treatments may include:

  • Physical therapy, including exercise
  • Medications, including antibiotics
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Nutrition tips and assistance
  • Respiratory therapy to keep your airways clear

In extreme cases, lung transplant may be advised. OSF HealthCare does not perform lung transplants, but we work with transplant centers in Chicago and St. Louis.

Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis

Most cases of cystic fibrosis are diagnosed in infants, toddlers and young children. 

The cystic fibrosis care team at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois will work with you and your child on an outpatient basis, or in the hospital if needed.

The Cystic Fibrosis Center is accredited by the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for treatment of children and adults.