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Alpha 1-Antitrypsin

Comprehensive Pulmonary

Pulmonologist located in Bakersfield, CA

If you’ve been suffering from shortness of breath and wheezing, fatigue, or vision problems, it could be a sign you have alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD or A1AD). This genetic condition increases your risk of serious medical problems such as lung and liver disease. Triple board-certified pulmonologist and internal medicine physician Alpha J. Anders, MD, FCCP, at Comprehensive Pulmonary Care in Bakersfield, California, treats a wide range of conditions affecting the lungs, including AATD. If you have symptoms of lung or liver disease, call the office or book an appointment online today.

Alpha 1-Antitrypsin Deficiency Q & A

What is alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency?

Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT or A1A) is a protein made in your liver that protects other parts of your body, including your lungs, from the harmful effects of other proteins. Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is a common yet underdiagnosed medical condition that occurs when you have inadequate amounts of AAT proteins in your bloodstream.

As a result, your lungs don’t have enough AAT to protect them. This increases your risk of severely debilitating lung problems such as repeated infections or emphysema. Some people with AAT develop emphysema as young as their early 40s.

What are the symptoms of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency?

The first symptoms of AATD include chronic shortness of breath and wheezing. You may find it more difficult to breathe during exercise or physical activity. Generally, these early symptoms appear around 20-40 years of age.

Other signs and symptoms of AATD include:

  • Fatigue
  • Vision problems
  • Rapid heartbeat upon standing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Frequent lung infections

Since wheezing and shortness of breath are also symptoms of asthma, many people with AATD are initially diagnosed with this condition.

What causes alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency?

AATD is a genetic condition, which means you inherit it from your family. Certain factors, such as smoking cigarettes, increase your risk of developing lung disease related to AATD. However, this condition affects nonsmokers as well.

How is alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency diagnosed and treated?

First, Dr. Anders performs a thorough physical exam and reviews your symptoms and medical history. If you show signs of lung disease without an obvious cause, he may suspect you have AATD.

To diagnose AATD, Dr. Anders may perform lung function tests to measure the amount of air you can breathe in and out. He may also take blood tests to check for low levels of AAT.

Then, he develops an individualized treatment plan to slow the progress of your disease and improve your quality of life. Treatment for AATD is similar to that for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. This may include:

  • Medicated inhalers
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Flu and pneumococcal vaccines

If you have severe breathing problems, you may be a candidate for a lung transplant.

For expert treatment of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and other lung problems, call Comprehensive Pulmonary Care or schedule an appointment online today.