Cystic Fibrosis (Adults)

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disorder that causes mucus in the body to become thick and sticky. This glue-like mucus builds up and causes problems in many of the body's organs, especially the lungs, which can lead to infections, and the pancreas, making it difficult to properly digest food. While cystic fibrosis is usually diagnosed in childhood, adults with no symptoms (or mild symptoms) during their youth can still be found to have the disease.

Accredited U-M Cystic Fibrosis Center Offers Care for Adult CF Patients

The University of Michigan’s Cystic Fibrosis Center, accredited by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, is the largest program of its kind in the state, offering a multidisciplinary approach for complete care, along with an active research program with access to cutting-edge treatments as they become available. Supporting patients over 21 years of age, our long-established program has also received Quality Improvement Awards from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for sustaining quality improvement work that led to better health outcomes for people with cystic fibrosis.

There is no cure for cystic fibrosis, and the disease generally gets worse over time. However, thanks to screening for early diagnosis and new treatments, people with cystic fibrosis—about 30,000 in the U.S—can live into their 40s and longer.

Symptoms for Cystic Fibrosis in Adults

  • A persistent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Lung infections
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Sinusitis
  • Malnutrition
  • Infertility
  • Arthritis

Diagnosing Adults with Cystic Fibrosis

To diagnose cystic fibrosis in adults, we perform a comprehensive exam and collect a thorough history. Diagnosis is most often made using a sweat test, which measures the amount of salt in your sweat using a chemical on the skin that causes you to sweat, and then collecting the sweat for analysis. A person with cystic fibrosis generally has more salt in his or her sweat. A genetics test can also be used to diagnose.

Other tests may be required, including a blood test, sputum (mucus) test, and a lung function test to measure how well you are breathing. An X-ray, CT scan, and/or MRI could be ordered as well.

Treatment Options for Adults with Cystic Fibrosis

Daily Treatments: Treatment for cystic fibrosis is not a one-time thing; it takes daily treatments, which you administer yourself, to stay as healthy as possible. Daily treatments generally include:

  • Airway clearance techniques to loosen mucus and clear it from the airways
  • Nutrition therapies
  • Supplements
  • Exercise

To maintain optimal lung function, mucus-thinning medicines and bronchodilators (used for inhaled medications to help keep the airways open) will most likely be added to your medical routine.

Antibiotics are used regularly for lung infections. If intravenous antibiotics are needed, hospitalization will be required.

In severe cases, lung transplantation may be required.

Clinical trials for new therapies are available for those who qualify.

Read more about transitioning to adult CF and our Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic.

Make an Appointment

To schedule an appointment to discuss adult cystic fibrosis, call us at 734-647-9342.