How cystic fibrosis affects the skeletal system

Many people who have cystic fibrosis have low bone mineral density because they have problems absorbing vitamin D and calcium, which are necessary for strong and healthy bones. Low bone mineral density can make a person who has cystic fibrosis more likely to have bone fractures or to develop osteopenia or osteoporosis. These types of bone problems are more common in adults who have cystic fibrosis.

A test called a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) can check the density and strength of your bones. After age 18, all people who have cystic fibrosis should have routine DEXA tests. You may need a DEXA scan earlier if you have a history of vitamin D deficiency, poor nutrition, or bone fractures. Your doctor may also recommend a DEXA test if you have frequently used prednisone.

Spending small amounts of time in the sun, exercising, taking vitamins, and eating nutritious foods can help prevent bone problems.

People who have cystic fibrosis may also have painful or swollen joints (arthralgia or arthritis) from time to time. Often these joint problems do not last more than a week and any pain can usually be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.

Last Updated: June 23, 2009

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