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.
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 fibrosis.
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 diabetes.
Cystic fibrosis may also affect the bowel and liver in the following ways:
|Primary Medical Reviewer||John Pope, MD - Pediatrics|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Susanna McColley, MD - Pediatric Pulmonology|
|Last Revised||June 15, 2011|
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