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Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency


  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is also called AATD. It is a condition where you have decreased amounts of alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) in your body. AAT is a special chemical that protects your lungs from being damaged by infections and harmful fumes. AATD is a condition you may have been born with that is caused by abnormal genes for AAT. In AATD, you may have little or no healthy AAT, or have abnormal AAT in your body. Smoking and exposure to chemical fumes may also decrease your AAT levels. Having decreased amounts of AAT increases your risk of lung damage, and getting lung infections often. You may also have tumors in your liver, pain in your abdomen, decreased energy, and yellowish-colored skin.
  • Your caregiver will ask about you and your family's health history. You may need blood tests, CT scans, pulmonary function tests, genetic testing, and x-rays. You will need to stay away from chemical fumes and tobacco smoke. Bronchodilators and steroids may be used to relieve your symptoms . Your caregiver may use AAT replacement to bring your level back to normal. Having your AATD treated may decrease your symptoms and prevent worsening lung damage.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Colds or the flu:

Stay away from people who have colds or the flu. Ask your caregiver if you should get shots to keep from getting the flu and pneumonia. Also try to stay away from large groups of people. This decreases your chance of getting sick.


To prevent influenza (flu), all adults should get the influenza vaccine. They should get it every year as soon as it becomes available. The pneumococcal vaccine is given to adults aged 65 years or older to prevent pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia. People aged 19 to 64 years at high risk for pneumococcal disease also should get the pneumococcal vaccine. It may need to be repeated 5 years later.

Hepatitis vaccines:

Ask your caregiver if you should be vaccinated against hepatitis. This includes hepatitis A and B and may require more than one shot.

Wellness hints:

  • Diet: Eat a variety of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat and fish. Eating healthy foods may help you have more energy and heal faster. Ask your caregiver if you need to be on a special diet.
  • Quit smoking: It's never too late to quit smoking. Smoking harms the heart, lungs and the blood. You are more likely to have a heart attack, lung disease or cancer if you smoke. You will help yourself and those around you by not smoking. Ask your caregiver for more information about how to stop smoking if you have any trouble quitting.


  • You are losing weight without trying.
  • You feel new lumps under your skin.
  • You have bowel or bladder changes.
  • You have any questions or concerns about your condition, medicine, or care.


  • You have a very bad headache that does not go away.
  • You have bloody bowel movements.
  • You have chest pain and trouble breathing.
  • You are throwing up blood.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.