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 infection.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. Cystic fibrosis and digestionIn 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
Many people who have cystic fibrosis have low bone mineral density, because they have problems absorbing vitamin D and calcium, which are necessary for strong and healthy bones. Low bone mineral density can make a person who has cystic fibrosis more likely to have bone fractures or to develop osteopenia or osteoporosis in adulthood.Routine dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) tests can check the density and strength of your bones. Spending small amounts of time in the sun, exercising, taking vitamins, and eating nutritious foods can help prevent bone problems. People who have cystic fibrosis may also have painful or swollen joints (arthralgia or arthritis) from time to time. Often these joint problems do not last more than a week and any pain can usually be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.
Regular exercise improves the health of people who have cystic fibrosis. Exercise helps loosen mucus, encourages coughing, improves oxygen flow, and makes you feel better. Upper body exercises, such as swimming or rowing, increase the strength and endurance of the muscles that are used for breathing. After talking to your doctor about how much exercise is good for your child, encourage your child to participate in sports and recreational activities. Team sports are great ways for your child to stay fit and to interact with other children. Talk to the coach or supervisor about your child's abilities and the important role of physical activity in the treatment of cystic fibrosis.Some people who have cystic fibrosis may not be strong enough to participate in certain activities. Your doctor can recommend the right amount and type of exercise for you. Or you may work with a physical therapist to develop your own exercise routine. For more information, see the topic Fitness: Getting and
The nasal potential difference test (nasal PD test) measures how well salts (sodium and chloride) flow across the mucous membranes in the nose. This type of test can be helpful when the results of a sweat test or a genetic test are not clear. In this test, electrodes are placed inside the nose and liquids are run through the nose. There is also a needle placed in the forearm that connects to a machine. Because this test can be uncomfortable, your child may need medicine to help him or her relax before having the test. This test is not used very often because it can be difficult to do and because it is not available in many places.