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Cystic Fibrosis: Overview and Risk Factors

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a hereditary disease that affects many parts of the body. The condition requires extensive treatment, and the average age of survival, while improving, is currently just 35 years.

The disease is caused by a gene mutation that results in thickened secretions of the body's glands, including sweat glands, parts of the digestive tract, the sinuses, and the airways. As a result, glands and passageways become clogged, leading to respiratory and digestive symptoms, among other problems.

CF is the most common genetic disorder in North America. In the United States, approximately 30,000 individuals have the condition. CF is also one of the most common causes of poor nutrient absorption in children. Because normal absorption and digestion of nutrients are required for proper growth, failure to thrive, malnutrition, and growth retardation are common in children who are not appropriately treated.


  • Frequent cough, which is dry at first, then productive of phlegm or blood.
  • Lung infections: Symptoms may include cough, fever, aches, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing.
  • Other respiratory problems such as wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Malnutrition
  • Diabetes
  • Poor growth
  • Fatigue
  • Male infertility: Women may have some abnormalities of the cervical mucus, but fertility does not appear to be significantly reduced.

Risk Factors

  • Genetics: CF is a hereditary condition caused by a genetic trait. A family history of CF and unexplained infant death are risk factors.
  • Race: CF occurs in approximately 1 in 2,500 Caucasians, 1 in 15,000 African-Americans, and 1 in 30,000 Asian-Americans.


Cystic Fibrosis : Diagnosis and Treatment >>