What is Cystic Fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.

In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick, sticky buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage, and eventually, respiratory failure.

In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have further enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. Many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s, and beyond.

Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis

People with CF can have a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Very salty-tasting skin;
  • Persistent coughing, at times with phlegm;
  • Frequent lung infections;
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath;
  • Poor growth/weight gain in spite of a good appetite; and
  • Frequent greasy, bulky stools or difficulty in bowel movements.



  • 2 hours a day are spend doing treatments. That’s 1 month a year.
  • 30K Americans have CF
  • 1 in 31 Americans are symptomless carriers of the defective F gene
  • Median predicted age is into the 40s
  • More than 25 promising therapies are currently in development
  • Nearly $3B was spent by the CF Foundation on its mission and advancing new therapies over the past 25 years.
  • Approximately $9B to cross the finish line and find a cure
  • 0 cures exist for cystic fibrosis
  • About 1,000 new cases of cystic fibrosis are diagnosed each year.
  • More than 70% of patients are diagnosed by age two.
  • More than 45% of the CF patient population is age 18 or older.
  • The predicted median age of survival for a person with CF is in the early 40s.  


The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Since 1955, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has been the driving force behind the pursuit of a cure. Thanks to the dedication and financial backing of our supporters — patients, families and friends, clinicians, researchers, volunteers, individual donors, corporations and staff, we are making a difference.

Learn more about Testing for Cystic Fibrosis.

 Explore all aspects of Living with CF at every stage of life.

 See what Treatments are available and what’s in development.