Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Cystic fibrosis (CF)

2-minute read

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that mostly affects the lungs and digestive system. It results from a fault in a particular gene. As a result, the mucus produced by the lungs and intestines to be thick and sticky.

Cystic fibrosis is a recessive genetic disorder, meaning that both parents must carry the faulty cystic fibrosis gene for the disease to be passed to their child.

Cystic fibrosis is usually detected in newborn babies through a neonatal screening test, known as the heel prick test.

This free test involves pricking the heel of the baby to gain a tiny blood sample and detects up to 95% of babies with cystic fibrosis.

If a baby has a positive heel prick test, it should then have a sweat test at about 6 weeks old to see if it either has the disorder, or is a healthy carrier of the faulty gene.

Adults who have cystic fibrosis in their family can have genetic counselling and blood tests to see if they carry the gene for cystic fibrosis.

Most people with cystic fibrosis have:

  • chest problems such as cough, wheeze and recurrent chest infections
  • digestive problems and bulky, fatty stools
  • very salty sweat.

They may also have lung damage, malnutrition, poor growth and diabetes. Almost all men and most women with cystic fibrosis are infertile.

The lives of people with cystic fibrosis are usually shortened by the disorder, but they can lead happy and productive lives well into middle age.

While cystic fibrosis cannot be cured, physiotherapy and many other treatments are available to improve quality of life and reduce complications.

Last reviewed: November 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Cystic fibrosis in children & teenagers | Raising Children Network

Cystic fibrosis (CF) affects childrens lungs, digestive system and sweat glands. Read about cystic fibrosis symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Cystic fibrosis (CF) - Better Health Channel

When a person has cystic fibrosis, their mucus glands secrete very thick sticky mucus that clogs the tiny air passages in the lungs and traps bacteria.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

CF gene mutation testing - Lab Tests Online AU

How and why Cystic Fibrosis gene mutation testing is done

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Chloride sweat - Lab Tests Online AU

Why, when and how to test for chloride in sweat in the diagnosis of cystic fibrosis

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is disability that mostly affects the lungs and digestive system.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Cystic fibrosis: fast facts -

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition affecting one in every 2,500 Australian babies. In cystic fibrosis the mucus secretions are thicker and more sticky than usual.

Read more on myDr website

Cystic fibrosis causes, symptoms and treatment information | myVMC

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic respiratory condition that affects mucus in the lungs. It causes breathing problems, lung infections and other health problems.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Genetic testing for hereditary diseases information | myVMC

Genetic testing involves analysing a person's DNA. It can be used to assess their risk of hereditary (genetic) conditions such as cystic fibrosis.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Cystic fibrosis - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

APO-Ursodeoxycholic Acid Capsules -

APO-Ursodeoxycholic Acid Capsules - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo