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