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Cystic fibrosis

What are the symptoms of cystic fibrosis?

Find out about the different symptoms of cystic fibrosis (CF) and the complications CF can cause. 

Cystic fibrosis (CF) can cause different symptoms in the lungs and digestive system. If you have CF, you may experience some, all, or none of these symptoms. 

On this page: 

Lung symptoms of cystic fibrosis 

Common symptoms in the lungs include: 

  • chest infections that come back
  • a wet cough that does not go away 
  • wheezing and shortness of breath. 

Babies with CF are likely to have normal, healthy lungs at birth, but repeated lung infections can damage them. Infections make the airways inflamed (swollen), which makes them wider than normal. This is called bronchiectasis.

Digestive symptoms of cystic fibrosis 

CF can affect the digestive system. Symptoms can include: 

  • needing to eat more than other people to stay a healthy weight and grow
  • pale, greasy poo
  • frequent bowel movements or constipation (pooing less often, or it being harder to poo).

Complications of cystic fibrosis 

People with CF can sometimes develop other conditions as they grow up. This usually happens towards the end of childhood, or in adulthood. They include: 

  • CF-related diabetes
  • osteoporosis (bone disease causing thin, weak bones)
  • liver problems
  • fertility problems – some people with cystic fibrosis can have problems having a child without help from fertility treatment
  • nasal polyps (growths inside the nose)
  • loss of salt in sweat, which can lead to dehydration.

You can get more information on symptoms and complications from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust

Next: How is cystic fibrosis diagnosed?

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Last medically reviewed: July 2022. Due for review: July 2025

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.