Symptoms of cystic fibrosis vary widely, and include slow growth in children, a chronic cough, sometimes producing phlegm, rectal prolapse, greasy stools, breathing difficulties and nasal passage inflammation, as stated by Mayo Clinic. Cystic fibrosis affects the digestive and respiratory systems, producing symptoms primarily in those tracts. Sometimes, cystic fibrosis symptoms affect other areas of life, such as limiting the capacity to exercise in affected individuals.
Cystic fibrosis develops in children, adolescents and adults, affecting approximately 30,000 people in the United States, as noted by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The disease stems from a defective protein that produces excessive quantities of mucus. The mucus, which lines the lungs and intestinal tract, slows the passage of air and impairs proper digestive functions. In the respiratory tract, the accumulation of mucus causes breathing difficulties; common complaints include a persistent cough producing mucus, wheezing, shortage of breath and chronic lung infections.
In the digestive system, accumulating mucus impairs the body's ability to absorb and process foods and nutrients effectively. This leads to constipation, rectal prolapse, frequent passage of fatty and greasy stools, failure to gain weight, and slow growth. In addition to these symptoms, cystic fibrosis may cause salty skin.
Cystic fibrosis affects patients differently; some people experience worsening symptoms over time, while others gradually improve. Most people receive a diagnosis in childhood, although diagnoses occur in adolescents and adults as well.