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Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

What are the symptoms of cystic fibrosis?

Many children today are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) before they have any symptoms. Every state offers CF screening as part of their newborn screening programs. If a newborn has a positive result for cystic fibrosis, more tests are done.

Below are the most common symptoms for CF. Symptoms also may depend on when your child is diagnosed:

  • Salty tasting skin

  • Long-term (chronic) respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, cough, and thick material coughed up from the lungs (sputum) that is sometimes bloody

  • Lung infections

  • Poor weight gain and growth

  • Constipation

  • Greasy and bulky stools

Other health problems

These are other symptoms and health problems that may occur in some children with CF:

  • Sinus infection (sinusitis)

  • Nasal polyps or an abnormal growth out of the mucus membranes of the nose

  • Clubbing of fingers and toes. This is a condition marked by the widening and rounding of the tips of the fingers and toes due to lack of enough oxygen in the bloodstream.

  • Collapsed lung (pneumothorax), caused by air or gas leaking into the area around the lungs

  • Coughing up blood

  • Right-sided heart failure caused by long-term high blood pressure in the lung arteries

  • Belly pain

  • Gas in the intestines

  • Part of the rectum sticks out through the anus (rectal prolapse)

  • Liver disease

  • Diabetes

  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). This organ creates many hormones and enzymes the body needs to work correctly.

  • Gallstones

  • Congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens in males. This is the tube that carries sperm from the testicle to the urethra.

CF symptoms vary for each child. Babies born with CF often show symptoms in the first year. But some children may not show symptoms until later in life. The symptoms below may indicate CF, and babies with these symptoms may be tested for CF:

  • Diarrhea that doesn’t go away

  • Bad-smelling stools

  • Greasy and bulky stools

  • Frequent episodes of wheezing

  • Frequent episodes of pneumonia

  • Lasting cough

  • Skin tastes very salty

  • Poor weight gain and growth

  • Chronic sinus infection

The symptoms of CF sometimes look like other conditions or health problems. Always see your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Online Medical Reviewer: Alan J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: John Hanrahan MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.