Cystic fibrosis (CF)

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited condition caused by a problem with the CF gene.

Babies with CF inherit 2 altered CF genes – one from each parent.

CF causes some organs in the body such as the lungs and pancreas to produce thick mucus.

The mucus in the lungs can build up and get infected. This can cause frequent chest infections. Over time these infections can cause lung damage.

CF can cause other problems. For example, the mucus produced by the pancreas can mean digestive enzymes cannot get to the intestine. This means CF sufferers can find it hard to digest food properly or gain weight.

Babies born in Ireland with CF

Around 1 in every 2,300 babies born in Ireland has CF.

About 1 in every 19 people has one copy of the altered CF gene and one copy of the unaltered gene. These people are not affected by CF.

If both parents carry the altered gene they have a 1 in 4 chance of having a baby with CF.

How heel prick screening can help

If the heel prick suggests your baby may have CF, they will be referred to a specialist.

Your baby can then start treatment with a high-energy diet to help them gain weight. Your baby can also get medicines and physiotherapy to improve lung function.

Although a child with CF may still become ill, early treatment improves their quality of life and can significantly reduce the time they need to spend in hospital.

The heel prick will not detect all babies with CF, especially those with a milder form of CF. If a baby has a very mild form of CF, they may not require any treatment.

Increased risk of cystic fibrosis (PDF, 2 pages, 57 KB)

Information on healthy carriers of cystic fibrosis (PDF, 2 pages, 63 KB)

The sweat test for cystic fibrosis (PDF, 2 pages, 59 KB)

Page last reviewed: 28 November 2018
Next review due: 28 November 2021