More than 30,000 children and adults in the United States have CF (70,000 worldwide).
People with CF
inherit two copies of a defective gene -- one copy from each parent -- that produces a faulty protein, causing a buildup of thick mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs.
When mucus clogs the lungs, it can become very difficult for a person to breathe. The thick mucus also allows for
germs to thrive and multiply, which can result in infections and inflammation and often leads to severe lung damage and respiratory failure. Respiratory problems are the most serious and persistent complication for people with CF.
Cystic fibrosis causes changes in many parts of the body, including the lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses, reproductive system, and sweat glands.
In the pancreas, the buildup of mucus prevents the release of digestive
enzymes that help the body break down food and absorb important
nutrients. People with CF often have malnutrition and poor growth.
The thick mucus can also block the bile duct in the liver and, in some people with CF, can cause liver disease.
In men, CF can affect their ability to have children. However, CF does not affect
sexual development in either men or women.
CF does not affect many things. It does not cause mental retardation or learning problems. It is not cerebral palsy (sometimes called CP). It does not affect mobility or mean a person will have to use a wheelchair.
Babies with CF grow, develop, and do what other babies do. Children with CF go to
school, play sports, and get their driver's licenses. People with CF can go to
college, pursue successful careers, and
have families of their own.
Today, because of improved medical treatments and care, almost half of people with CF are age 18 or older. Many people with CF can expect to live healthy, fulfilling lives into their 30s, 40s, and beyond.
Watch a brief video on how clinical research has made a difference in the lives of people with CF.
Read the Foundation's Patient Registry Reports.
Watch CF clinicians discuss:
- What CF is
- How CF is diagnosed
- Newborn screening