How Cystic Fibrosis Affects the Pancreas and the Digestive System
Cystic fibrosis often affects the pancreas and
digestive system because the
mucus in these areas becomes thick and sticky. If this
occurs, the mucus blocks normal digestive function as well as harbors
The digestive system is responsible for breaking down food, absorbing
nutrients from the food, and ridding the body of waste products. The
pancreas is an organ that is located in the upper
abdomen, behind the stomach and close to the spine. It produces digestive
enzymes, which travel to the intestines and break down (digest) food so that
nutrients can be absorbed by the body.
Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems
It is possible that the main title of the report Cystic Fibrosis is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.
In cystic fibrosis, mucus clogs the pancreas, and digestive enzymes
are not able to get to the intestine. So food is not properly digested,
particularly fats and proteins. A related symptom is large, greasy, smelly stools.
Lack of nutrition prevents normal growth and development in babies
and children. Unhealthy weight loss and difficulty gaining or maintaining
weight are common problems for many people of all ages who have cystic
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is common in people who have cystic fibrosis.
In addition to enzymes, the pancreas also produces insulin, a
hormone that helps control blood sugar. Over time, the abnormal buildup of
enzymes starts to break down pancreatic tissue. This slows and may eventually
stop insulin production, resulting in
Cystic fibrosis may also affect the bowel and liver in the
Large stools can cause irritation, swelling, or
blockage of the bowels, resulting in the inability to pass stool; vomiting;
bulging of the lower part of the large intestine (rectum) through the anus; and
collapse of the bowel into itself like a closing
Damage to the
bile ducts results in eventual
cirrhosis and liver disease.
people who have cystic fibrosis develop distal intestinal obstruction syndrome. This is an
obstruction in the small bowel that causes abdominal pain, cramping, and
Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, may
result when thick mucus blocks the tube (duct) that leads from the pancreas to
the beginning of the small intestine (duodenum).
Primary Medical Reviewer
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Susanna McColley, MD - Pediatric Pulmonology
June 15, 2011
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
June 15, 2011
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