Cystic fibrosis is a genetic (inherited) disease that affects predominantly the lungs and digestive systems of about 30,000 people in the United States.
An altered gene causes cells in the body to produce mucus that is thicker and stickier than normal. This mucus can clog the lungs, leading to life-threatening lung infections. It can also obstruct the pancreas and prevent the release of natural enzymes the body needs to break down and absorb food.
In the 1950s, most children with cystic fibrosis did not live to attend elementary school. Fortunately, advances in medical care have greatly extended the life expectancy as well as the quality of life for children and adults with cystic fibrosis. Many patients with CF cannot expect to live into their 20s, 40s, and beyond.