Cystic fibrosis can lead to various complications, including respiratory infections, mental health conditions, and diabetes.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition that causes an excess of thick, sticky mucus in the body. Mucus can build up in the lungs, the airways, the digestive system, and other organs, leading to complications such as lung infections and digestive difficulties.
This article discusses the various health conditions that can occur as complications of CF.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
When a person has CF, the mucus in their body becomes sticky and thick. It can build up in certain areas, including the lungs, and lead to respiratory infections.
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis is a fungal infection that
This condition can lead to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and blood in the phlegm.
Chronic lung infections
When a person has CF, mucus in the lungs can cause bacteria to settle and grow. This can lead to lung infections such as:
- Pseudomonas: Pseudomonas bacteria are typically present in damp environments such as bathrooms. They are one of the most common causes of lung infections in people with CF.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA): MRSA is a strain of bacteria that
commonly spreadsin healthcare settings.
- Meticillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA): MSSA is another strain of “staph” bacteria. These bacteria live on the skin. MSSA can become resistant to antibiotics and lead to MRSA.
- Nontuberculous mycobacteria: These strains of bacteria are typically present in soil, swamps, and bodies of water.
- Burkholderia cepacia complex: These strains of bacteria typically occur in the natural environment.
Bronchiectasis is a widening of the airways that
- increased shortness of breath
- worsening cough
- increased phlegm production
- worsening lung function
They can also affect everyday quality of life and decrease a person’s life expectancy.
When a person has CF, their pelvic floor muscles may become weaker over time due to persistent coughing and repeated lung infections. This can lead to issues with bladder control.
In a 2017 study involving 168 people with CF,
In the 2021 annual data report of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry, which includes data from more than 17,000 adults with CF, 29.6% of adults reported depression and 28% reported anxiety.
The pancreas produces enzymes that typically pass into the digestive system to help digest food. However, when a person has CF, a buildup of mucus in the pancreas can block these enzymes. Therefore, food may not digest properly, and a person may not be able to absorb enough nutrients.
A person with CF may experience several gastrointestinal issues, including:
A female with CF may have thicker cervical mucus and may experience issues with ovulation due to a lack of nutrition. This means it may take them longer to get pregnant. However, a person with CF can become pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy.
A male with CF may experience infertility due to the absence of the canal that transports sperm to the semen. Research suggests that more than
It is common for people with CF to experience issues with bone and muscle health.
A person with CF may have low bone mineral density, muscle weakness, and a tendency for inflammation throughout their body. These issues can lead to pain, fractures, and muscular injuries.
Learn more about cystic fibrosis
CF can lead to issues with several organs due to a buildup of thick, sticky mucus.
Liver disease or liver failure
Research suggests that
When a person has CF, the kidneys may be under a lot of strain due to recurring infections and the various medications a person needs. This stress can lead to cystic fibrosis kidney disease.
According to a
A person with CF may also experience persistent lung infections, which can strain the heart, cause inflammation in the heart and blood vessels, and lead to oxidative stress. These factors may lead to heart failure.
A person with CF may lose
CF can lead to a buildup of mucus in the pancreas, which can cause inflammation and scarring, affect the production of insulin, and lead to high blood sugar levels.
There is currently no cure for CF. However, there are several treatments that can help manage the condition and increase life expectancy. Possible treatments
- medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, bronchodilators, and CFTR modulators
- methods to help clear the airways, such as chest physical therapy, vibrating vests, and coughing and breathing techniques
- breathing support such as oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and ventilators
- surgery such as a lung or liver transplant
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition that can cause a buildup of sticky mucus in the airways, the digestive system, and the organs.
This buildup can lead to various health conditions, including respiratory infections, liver and kidney conditions, heart conditions, mental health conditions, fertility concerns, digestive issues, and diabetes.
There is currently no cure for CF. However, there are several treatments that can help relieve symptoms and increase life expectancy.