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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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How Cystic Fibrosis Affects the Sweat Glands - Topic Overview

Cystic fibrosis can lower the normal salt levels in the body, which can lead to a variety of short- and long-term problems.

Sweat glands cool the body by releasing perspiration (sweat) from the lower layers of the skin onto the surface. Sodium and chloride (salt) help carry water to the skin's surface and are then reabsorbed into the body. As the water evaporates, heat is carried away, and the body cools.

Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a disease that changes how your body makes mucus and sweat. It affects how well your lungs, digestive system, and some other body parts work. It’s caused by a flawed gene. If you have cystic fibrosis, you may have mucus that’s too thick or sweat that’s too salty. If heavy mucus clogs your lungs, it’s hard to breathe. It can also block your pancreas, an organ in your belly, so you can’t digest your food as well. The disease may make you sweat away too much of the salt your...

Read the Cystic Fibrosis article > >

In people who have cystic fibrosis, the salt travels to the skin's surface with the water and is not reabsorbed. Because of this, the skin of a child who has cystic fibrosis is abnormally salty. Parents may notice salty-tasting skin when they kiss the child.

People who have cystic fibrosis can become quickly depleted of salts, especially when the weather is hot, when they exercise strenuously, or when they have a fever. Low salt levels in the body lead to fatigue, weakness, fever, muscle cramps, stomach pain, vomiting, dehydration, and heatstroke. To avoid these conditions, people who have cystic fibrosis need to keep well hydrated and keep healthy salt levels in the body. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) are especially good to help replace lost salts. Do not use salt tablets without talking to your doctor first.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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