The abnormal cystic fibrosis gene also causes your sweat to become extremely salty. As a result, when you perspire, your body loses a large amount of salt. The loss of salt can upset the balance of minerals in your blood, which may cause you to have a heat emergency.
The symptoms and severity of cystic fibrosis vary from person to person. People with severe cystic fibrosis symptoms can have serious lung and digestive problems, while people with mild cystic fibrosis may not have any symptoms until they are adolescents or young adults.
The most common symptoms of cystic fibrosis are:
- Frequent coughing with phlegm
- Frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia
- Salty-tasting skin
- Poor growth
- Infertility, mostly in men.
Over time, mucus buildup and infections will lead to permanent lung damage, including the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis) and cysts in the lungs.
Some babies with cystic fibrosis have meconium ileus, a blockage of the intestine that occurs shortly after birth.
Until the 1980s, most deaths from cystic fibrosis occurred in children and teenagers. Today, with improved treatments, people with cystic fibrosis live, on average, to be more than 35 years old. However, respiratory failure is the most common cause of death among people with this condition.
(Click Cystic Fibrosis Symptoms for more information on these symptoms.)
The sweat test is the most common diagnostic test for cystic fibrosis. The sweat test measures the amount of salt in your sweat.
Other tests that can be used to help diagnose this condition include:
- A chest x-ray
- A sinus x-ray
- Lung function tests
- Analysis of sputum cultures and/or stool samples
- Genetic testing of a blood sample.
(Click Cystic Fibrosis Sweat Test for more information about this topic.)