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California Newborn Screening Program

Cystic Fibrosis

What Is CF?

CF stands for cystic fibrosis. It is an inherited disease that can affect many body organs including the lungs and the digestive system. Babies born with this disease do not have a fully functional chloride channel in the cell membranes of many body organs. This disease is genetic so your child cannot outgrow it.

Cystic fibrosis is one of the most common of the serious inherited childhood disorders. A defective gene causes the body to produce abnormally thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and obstructs the pancreas, preventing digestive enzymes from reaching the intestines to help break down and absorb food.

What Are the Symptoms of CF?

In the first few months of life, a baby with CF can have:

  • poor digestion of breast milk or formula
  • failure to gain weight normally
  • frequent coughs
  • recurrent lung infections
  • salty sweat
  • frequent runny stools that are greasy and smelly
  • dehydration and
  • life-threatening salt imbalance

The symptoms of CF can be variable. Some will have fewer symptoms while others may have more serious health problems.

What Is the Treatment for CF?

Early treatment along with ongoing health care by a team at a specialty care center can alleviate many of the CF problems. One goal is to provide the right amount of nutrients to keep your child growing to his or her potential. Another goal of treatment is to keep your child’s lungs clear of infection. Treatment can include pancreatic enzymes, dietary supplements, chest percussion, antibiotics and other medicines.  

An early diagnosis through newborn screening slows the progress of the disease and allows a child to receive appropriate medical treatments before some irreversible disease processes have begun and provides parents with more time to become educated about how to provide the best possible care for a child with cystic fibrosis.

Parents' Guide to Cystic Fibrosis English ...Spanish

Last modified on: 8/24/2010 8:43 AM