COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is the 3rd leading cause of death in the US, right after heart disease and cancer. COPD is a “progressive” disease, the symptoms of which are wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and high levels of mucus in the lungs.
While COPD is generally associated with smoking, it can also be inherited. Currently, there is one known form of inherited COPD which is called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Defiency or, simply, Alpha-1. Alpha-1 is the lack of the protein Alpha-1 Antitrypsin in the blood. This protein is produced in the liver and is used by your body to protect the lungs from inflammation caused by infection or pollutants like tobacco. If your liver is not producing enough Alpha-1 Antitrypsin, lung disease can occur.
COPD is not curable, but if you are able to diagnose it early and begin proper treatment and lifestyle changes, you can drastically slow down the decline from the disease. If you believe you have COPD or are a candidate for Alpha-1, you should stop smoking, avoid second-hand smoke and limit your exposure to strong chemicals or pollution.
Testing for Alpha-1 involves a simple blood test. To learn more about your risk for COPD or Alpha-1 and your testing options, consult with your physician.