Sweat Testing

Our Minnesota Cystic Fibrosis Center is one of only 15 in the United States to be designated as a Therapeutic Development Center by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
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People with cystic fibrosis (CF) have more salt (sodium and chloride) in their sweat than other people. Measuring the amount of salt in a person’s sweat is the preferred way to diagnose CF. Sweat testing is painless, fast and reliable. People sometimes notice that the skin of people with CF tastes saltier.

A frequent symptom of CF in infants is difficulty gaining weight despite eating enough. In adults, signs of the disease may be different ─ chronic sinus or lung infections, polyps in the nasal passages, certain types of breathing difficulties (bronchiectasis), male infertility, or inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

Our Approach

During a sweat test, which takes about an hour, a chemical that causes sweating is applied to a small area on the arm or leg. Sweating is induced by applying a weak electrical current to the area through an electrode on the skin for a short period of time. The sweat is collected in a small tube and sent to a lab for testing. Results are usually available the same day.

In infants, sweat testing may be used to rule out or confirm CF, especially in infants that may have a positive newborn screening result. The best time to do a sweat test in infancy is around one month of age. Doing the test earlier may not provide a large enough sweat sample for analysis. If a child’s sweat test results are normal, he or she may still be a carrier of this inherited disease. Genetic counseling is helpful to determine the impact of CF on the family.

We believe that having an expert care team with you throughout your life, is the best way to live well with CF. Your M Health care team will include physicians, nurse practitioners, nurse coordinators, social workers, dietitians, respiratory therapists, genetic counselors, and experts from a variety of different clinical specialties, depending on your needs. We cover the entire spectrum of your illness, including diagnosis, treatment, and research aimed at understanding and controlling all the potential complications of CF.

Our CF program at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital has been providing care to children and adolescents from around the world for more than 50 years. Sweat testing performed at a center specializing in cystic fibrosis, such as the Minnesota CF Center, ensures that strict guidelines for accuracy are followed.

Conditions We Treat

Sweat testing is used to diagnose cystic fibrosis.


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