What is cystic fibrosis?

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What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition affecting more than 10,900 people in the UK. You are born with CF and cannot catch it later in life, but one in 25 of us carries the faulty gene that causes it, usually without knowing.

The gene affected by CF controls the movement of salt and water in and out of cells. People with CF experience a build-up of thick sticky mucus in the lungs, digestive system and other organs, causing a wide range of challenging symptoms affecting the entire body.

  • How is cystic fibrosis diagnosed?

    Cystic fibrosis can be diagnosed during newborn screening, which is carried out as part of the heel-prick test that all babies in the UK receive, and positive results are followed up using a sweat test. If someone has a history of CF in their family, a partner with CF, or a child with the condition, they may choose to get carrier testing to see if they carry the faulty gene that can cause it, which only requires a simple mouthwash or blood test.

    There are also ways to test for CF during pregnancy, which carry some risks and are only usually carried out in pregnancies with a high chance of cystic fibrosis. Find out more about how cystic fibrosis is diagnosed through newborn screening, carrier testing and antenatal testing, and how the condition is diagnosed in adults.

    Find out more

  • How is cystic fibrosis treated?

    It is vital that people with CF receive appropriate treatments to enable them to live longer, healthier lives. That treatment can take many different forms! Find out how medicationphysiotherapynutrition and exercise all play their part. We also have information about transplants and specialist care. Get the latest on the four precision medicines currently available that tackle the root cause of CF: KaftrioSymkeviOrkambi and Kalydeco.

    Find out more

  • How does cystic fibrosis affect the body?

    Cystic fibrosis causes the body to produce thick mucus, which can have a wide range of effects. Everyone with CF will have a slightly different variety and severity of symptoms. Take a look at our interactive body to find out more and explore how CF affects the lungs and digestive system, and about the other complications it can cause.

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  • What are the causes of cystic fibrosis?

    People have CF because they have inherited a faulty gene from both of their parents. Find out more about the CF gene, genotypes and the different mutations that people with CF have.

    Find out more

  • FAQs

    Get the answers to all your questions about CF.

    Get answers

  • Cystic fibrosis in fiction

    Cystic fibrosis has been featured in numerous books, TV shows and films over the years. While we recognise that fictional representations of CF can help to raise vital awareness of the real impact of the condition, we are aware that some information can be misleading or one-sided. Get answers to specific topics raised in some of these fictional representations, and find out about the real side of cystic fibrosis.

    Find out more about fictional portrayals of CF

  • CF for teachers

    Need help supporting a student with CF in your class? Creating a lesson plan on CF and want to find out more about the condition?

    Check out our info about CF for teachers

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Got questions about CF?

Our FAQs answer all your burning questions about CF, from diagnosis and treatment to genetic screening and stem cell therapy.


The risk of passing bugs to each other means that two people with CF can never meet face to face.

Life-saving drugs

Get the latest on our campaign for access to the precision medicines Kaftrio, Symkevi, Orkambi and Kalydeco.


Public awareness of cystic fibrosis is low; here's your chance to find out the answers to the most commonly asked questions and discover further resources.

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