How does CF affect the gastrointestinal (GI) system?
The organ primarily affected is the pancreas, which secretes substances that aid digestion and help control blood-glucose levels. As a result of the abnormal electrolyte transport system in the cells, the secretions from the pancreas become thick and lead to an obstruction of the ducts of the pancreas. This obstruction then causes a decrease in the secretion of enzymes from the pancreas that normally help to digest food. A person with CF has difficulty absorbing proteins, fats, and vitamins A, D, E, and K. The problems with the pancreas can become so severe that some of the cells in the pancreas can become destroyed. This may lead to glucose intolerance and insulin-dependent diabetes. About 35 percent of CF patients develop this type of diabetes in their 20s and 43 percent develop the disease after 30 years of age. The symptoms that may be present due to the involvement with the GI tract include the following: • Bulky, greasy stools • Rectal prolapse--a condition in which the end
part of the bowels comes out of the anus. • Delayed puberty • Fat in the stools • Stomach pain • Bloody diarrhea The liver may also be affected. A small number of patients may actually develop liver disease. Symptoms of liver disease may include: • Enlarged liver • Swollen abdomen • Yellow color to the skin • Vomiting of blood