Your Life Living with Cystic Fibrosis
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2019 | Last updated: May 2023
The systemic and complex nature of cystic fibrosis (CF) means that it touches pretty much every aspect of a person’s life. That said, people with CF lead full, joyful lives, often with only the smallest accommodations necessary to participate fully in life. From sleepovers and college to careers and family, people with CF can and do, thrive.
Friends and cystic fibrosis
Friendships that make you laugh, make you think, and bring comfort are vital whether you’re healthy or dealing with CF. However, friends need to know about CF and how they can help you stay healthy, whether you’re a kid over for a slumber party, sharing a cabin at summer camp, or otherwise off having fun.
Going to college
Moving away from home to go to college is a rite of passage for many young people. If higher education is in your plans and you have CF, you should learn about your rights and your opportunities for financial aid. CF may throw a few extra obstacles in your path as you work to get an education, but there is plenty of support available to help you.
It should come as no surprise that any type of smoking or vaping is strongly discouraged for anyone with lung disease, and especially with CF. It does not matter if that smoke is generated by a cigarette, cigar, pipe, hookah, e-cigarette, or inhaled marijuana. Second-hand smoke, and the smoke from candles and wildfires, also pose serious threats to the health of people with CF.1
Beer, wine, and cocktails hold special health risks for people with CF. Since alcohol is a depressant, it may make it harder to breathe or clear mucus from the lungs. It may make it easier to forget important parts of your treatment regimen and can make antibiotics less effective. The occasional adult beverage probably won’t hurt, but there are many precautions people with CF should take before drinking alcohol.2
Every day, thousands of adults with cystic fibrosis prove that you can hold down a job, even while managing a chronic health condition. It can be challenging to balance your treatment regimen with the responsibilities and activities required by the workplace, but it can be done. The friendships, intellectual stimulation, health insurance, and money that come with a career can give people with CF a much-needed emotional and financial boost. It can also be difficult, depending on the physical demands of the job and how severe your symptoms are at any given time.
Sex and intimacy
Sex and intimacy are two of the great pleasures of adult life, and while CF causes many health problems, it generally does not impact sexual interest, desire, or performance. That said, people with CF do sometimes face extra hurdles when they become old enough and physically mature enough to consider having a sexual relationship. For example, body image and self-esteem may be lacking or poor lung function may reduce desire. However, many practical tips are available to help adults with CF have a healthy sexual life.3
Marriage and family
Thanks to advances in treatment, many people with CF now survive well into middle-age with adult lives that include a job, marriage, and babies. However, as with any adult living with a chronic health condition, special factors must be considered before getting married or starting a family.