What Is Cystic Fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a life-threatening genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. An estimated 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide) have CF.

In people with CF, a defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that:

  • Clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections.

  • Obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down food and absorb vital nutrients.

How it is Diagnosed

Newborn screening for CF is done in the first 2 or 3 days after birth. It identifies babies who are at high risk of having CF. If a baby has a positive screen for CF, a sweat test may be used to rule out or confirm a CF diagnosis. All 50 states and the District of Columbia screen newborns for cystic fibrosis.

If a person shows symptoms of CF or if a baby has a positive newborn screen for CF, a doctor may order a sweat test. This simple, painless test is the best way to diagnose CF. It measures the concentration of salt in a person’s sweat. A high salt level indicates CF.

Who We Are

As the Western Carolina’s Cystic Fibrosis center, an affiliate of UNC Chapel Hill CF center, we provide care for children from birth to age 18. Dr. Hugh Black and Dr. William Ashe along with our registered nurse, clinical social worker and registered dietitian are able to ensure comprehensive and individualized treatment to our patients.