Alpha-1 Antitrypsin

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin deficiency is an inherited disorder that can cause lung or liver disease.  Many people with Alpha-1 can develop emphysema (also known as COPD), a long-term lung disease and are more susceptible to bronchiectasis.

Alpha-1 deficiency is inherited - you can get the genes from your parents.  People born with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency don't have enough of the Alpha-1 protein protecting their lungs.  This means their lungs can be easily damaged by even a small amount of sickness, air pollution, smoking or second-hand smoke.  Over many years, the lung damage can lead to a disease called emphysema.

Many people don't realize they have Alpha-1 deficiency until they notice the signs and symptoms of emphysema:

  • Shortness of breath - feeling like you can't get your breath out.
  • A Barrel-shaped chest
  • Wheezing
  • Feeling tired
  • Losing weight without trying

Other signs and symptoms of Alpha-1 are:

  • Eyes and skin turning yellow (jaundice)
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Unexplained liver problems or elevated liver enzymes.

There is no cure for Alpha-1 deficiency, but it is possible to slow down the disease.

  1. If you don't smoke, don't start.  If you do smoke, quit.
  2. Avoid air pollution, dust and smog.
  3. If you have developed COPD, get treatment.
  4. Get regular vaccines, including flu, pneumonia, hepatitis A & B.
  5. Replacment/ augmentation therapy.

For printable information, please click here.

Page Last Updated: 17/06/2016