Cystic fibrosis complications and symptoms

Cystic fibrosis (CF) affects many different parts of the body and people with the condition can experience a wide range of complications and symptoms. The number and severity of these symptoms can vary dramatically, so two individuals with CF can have very different experiences of the challenges it brings.

  • Lungs

    People with CF are susceptible to a range of infections as well as reduced lung function, which can have a huge impact on health and wellbeing. Learn more about lung infections, transplants, cross-infection and antibiotic resistance.

    Find out more about how CF affects the lungs

  • Bones

    In people with cystic fibrosis, bones may become thinner and weaker at a younger age than in people who do not have the condition. Find out more about joint pain and arthritis, osteopenia, osteoporosis and low bone mineral density (BMD), as well as how low BMD is caused, measured, treated and prevented.

    Find out more about how CF affects bones

  • Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes

    Inflammation and scarring of the pancreas can prevent the effective production of insulin, resulting in CF-related diabetes (CFRD). CFRD is common in adults and adolescents with cystic fibrosis. Recent data from the UK CF Registry indicates that more than one-third of adults with CF are being treated for CFRD; for children the prevalence of CFRD is almost 30%.

    Find out more about CFRD

  • Digestive system

    Cystic fibrosis can cause various problems with the digestive system, requiring medications - sometimes including insulin - to be taken with every meal, as well as special dietary adjustments.

    Find out more about the pancreas and digestion, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, cystic fibrosis and meconium ileus (bowel obstruction), distal intestinal obstruction syndrome (DIOS) and gastro-oesophageal reflux.

    Find out more about how CF affects the digestive system

  • Fertility

    Both men and women with CF may have problems conceiving a child ‘naturally’ for various reasons. Find out more about how CF affects the reproductive system and fertility of men and women, and the different fertility treatments available.

    Find out more about fertility

  • Liver

    Cystic fibrosis can cause the blockage of small ducts in the liver, leading to liver disease. Find out more about how common liver disease and jaundice is in people with CF, how CF affects the liver, the symptoms of CF-related liver disease and how it is diagnosed.

    Find out more about how CF affects the liver

  • Salt and sweat

    CF affects the movement of salt and water in and out of cells, which can lead to salty sweat and skin for people with the condition.

    Find out more about salt and sweat

  • Cancer

    As people with CF live longer, we expect to see new trends in health data, with many positive developments but also new health challenges such as cancer. Access to national and international registries and increasing global collaboration mean we can identify trends and emerging issues more quickly and ensure we respond in a timely and effective way. We spoke to Professor Daniel Peckham, Director of the Adult CF Centre in Leeds, to find out more about the topic of cancer and CF, and work that is underway to further our knowledge in this important area.

    There is some research to suggest that there may be an increased risk of bowel (or colorectal) cancer in people with cystic fibrosis. Find out more about bowel cancer, the risks in people with CF and how it is screened for.

  • Additional symptoms

    There are a number of other symptoms that someone with CF might experience, which can also often be treated through various medications and procedures.

    Find out more about the additional symptoms of cystic fibrosis, including fertility, kidney and hearing complications, sinusitis, nasal polyps, nail clubbing and sweat, and the symptoms in babies and young children – and whether carriers get symptoms or not.

    Find out more about additional symptoms

  • Support with symptoms

    If you need any advice about the symptoms of cystic fibrosis, speak to your CF team. Cystic Fibrosis Trust is not able to provide medical advice, but if you have general questions or just want someone to talk to, please contact our Helpline.

    Get in touch

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What is CF?

Cystic fibrosis, or CF, affects the lungs, digestive system and other organs. There are over 10,800 people living with it in the UK.

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