Cystic fibrosis (CF)

An inherited condition that causes the build up of sticky mucus in the lungs and digestive system.

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition that affects your body's ability to control the movement of salt and water in and out of your 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 complications affecting the entire body. Most cases are detected at birth.

Need to know

  • What are the symptoms of cystic fibrosis? icon plus

    Most cases of cystic fibrosis are picked up at birth. Common symptoms include:
    In the lungs

    • coughing
    • wheezing and shortness of breath
    • recurring chest infections due to mucus build-up in the lungs, an ideal breeding ground for bacteria


    • an enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
    • an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly) that develops when there is scarring in the liver
    • fluid build-up in the abdomen (ascites)
    • bleeding (bruising, nosebleeds and visible veins on the abdominal wall)
    • poor growth and muscle wasting
    • jaundice

    People sometimes develop other conditions towards the end of childhood, or in adulthood, such as:

    • delayed puberty
    • reduced fertility
    • diabetes
    • bone disease (weak bones)
  • How is cystic fibrosis diagnosed? icon plus

    All newborns are screened for Cystic fibrosis as part of the newborn blood spot test. If your baby is suspected of having CF, two additional tests to confirm a diagnosis are needed:

    • The first is a sweat test to measure the amount of salt in sweat, which will be abnormally high in those with CF
    • The second is a genetic test where a sample of blood is checked for the gene that causes CF .

    These tests can also be used to diagnose cystic fibrosis in older children and adults who didn't undergo the newborn screening. Another reason why a person with CF was not diagnosed earlier is that the condition can vary widely in severity and symptoms, and can mimic other lung diseases such as asthma.

  • Treatment options for cystic fibrosis icon plus

    There's no cure for cystic fibrosis but the condition can be managed with the following treatments:

    • Antibiotics, steroids and medicines to clear the air passageways
    • Regular exercise and physiotherapy
    • Active Cycle of Breathing Techniques (ACBT) – a cycle of deep breathing, huffing, coughing and relaxed breathing to shift the mucus and clear your airways
    • Dietary and nutritional advice from a dietician
    • In severe cases, a lung transplant when your lung has failed

Our consultant specialising in cystic fibrosis

We provide a multi-disciplinary approach to children and adults diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Your consultant will lead your treatment and be supported by specialist nurses and a therapy team including physiotherapists.

Our locations

From complex therapy to diganostic tests and procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Book an appointment

Our team can help with any enquiries or you can make an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

Call us today

020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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