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Cystic Fibrosis

In collaboration with Baylor Medicine, Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center is home to one of the largest cystic fibrosis programs in the nation. Our team offers comprehensive care to patients with cystic fibrosis as well as access to clinical trials and new therapies.

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder of the mucus and sweat glands that causes damage to the lungs, digestive system, and other organs in the body. CF causes one’s mucus to be thick and sticky, which in turn clogs the lungs. This leads to breathing problems and makes it easy for bacteria to grow. Repeated lung infections and lung damage can occur as a result.

What are the risk factors of cystic fibrosis?

A person may be at risk for CF as a result of family history and genetics as well as ethnicity. A higher risk of CF can result if at least one parent either is a carrier of a mutated CFTR gene or has CF. You also have a higher risk if a sibling, half-sibling, or cousin has CF. While cystic fibrosis has been known to affect people of all ethnicities, people of northern European ancestry are the most common carriers of CF.

What are the symptoms of cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis most commonly affects the lungs and will often cause wheezing and coughing that produces mucus or blood. Symptoms depend on which organs are affected and can include:

  • Frequent lung infections

  • Persistent cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Difficulty with bowel movements

  • Clubbing of fingers and toes

  • Abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, or constipation

  • Greasy stools

  • Jaundice

  • Low body weight

  • Delayed growth

  • Sinus infections

  • Joint pain

A condition called bronchiectasis, which obstructs airflow and can make it difficult to clear the airways, is common in patients with CF. However, the condition can also occur independently of the disease. Our new, dedicated clinic offers evaluation and treatment for patients with non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis.

What treatments are available for cystic fibrosis?

While there is no cure for cystic fibrosis, there are several treatments that can relieve symptoms and help patients avoid serious complications, including:

  • Antibiotics

  • Mucus-thinning medications

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen

  • Bronchodilators

More invasive procedures for severe cases include:

  • Bowel surgery to remove a segment of the bowel and relieve a blockage

  • A feeding tube in the case of digestion issues

  • A lung transplant in the case of extreme breathing problems

Our multidisciplinary team includes a dedicated respiratory therapist to provide education and assistance with inhaled therapies and airway clearance devices.

Schedule a consultation with a St. Luke’s Health pulmonologist today.