Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (CFRD) is the most common complication of cystic fibrosis. It is associated with significantly increased morbidity and mortality in adults and children. Adolescents with cystic fibrosis have a much higher prevalence of diabetes than any other similar age population. Glucose abnormalities that precede diabetes are even more common, especially in children younger than 10 years. The pathophysiology of glucose metabolic abnormalities is poorly understood, but insulin insufficiency is clearly the main component. Findings from animal studies have provided insight into the pathophysiology of CFRD, and imply that carbohydrate metabolic abnormalities might begin at much younger ages than was previously thought in patients with cystic fibrosis, and might be related to the basic cystic fibrosis chloride channel defect. In this Review we explore present knowledge of CFRD in children and adolescents, and new data that indicate that the pathophysiology of CFRD begins in very young patients.