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How does cystic fibrosis (CF) affect the lungs?

With cystic fibrosis (CF), thick and sticky mucus in the lungs means that they are unable to work like they normally do.

When people breathe in, air is sucked into their mouth or nose, through their airways and down into their lungs. Oxygen is passed from the lungs into the blood, where it travels around the body to all the different cells.

Oxygen isn’t the only thing we breathe in. We also breathe in dirt and germs, which can damage the lungs and cause infections. Normally, the lungs protect themselves by producing mucus that traps the dirt and germs, and the cilia (tiny hairs on the lining of the lungs) sweep the mucus-covered dirt and germs out of the lungs. With cystic fibrosis (CF), however, things are different. In CF, the cilia can’t push germs and dirt out of the lungs because the mucus is too thick and sticky. Also, the thick mucus is harder to cough up. This means that the germs are trapped in the lungs, which is why those with CF are more likely to get infections. All of this can damage the lungs, making it harder to breathe.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.