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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Alpha-1 can be confused with asthma

I'm on of those old-fashioned people that like to read the newspaper in the morning before I go to work. Yes, an actual newspaper! You know, the paper that some people still get on their driveway every morning. (And then I have to shuffle out to get it in my big fuzzy bathrobe and hope that none of the neighbors see me....... )
This week I read an article about Alpha-1 Awareness month. I've never heard of it before, so I thought I would scan the article. I'm always interested in learning something new.....trying to keep the old brain cells nice and sharp you know! 

"Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1) is a genetic (inherited) condition – it is passed from parents to their children through their genes. Alpha-1 may result in serious lung disease in adults and/or liver disease at any age. "

What caught my attention is how Alpha-1 can be misdiagnosed as asthma. Here are the symptoms that they list:

The most common signs and symptoms of disease caused by Alpha-1

Symptoms related to the lung:
  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Wheezing
  3. Chronic bronchitis, which is cough and sputum (phlegm) production that lasts for a long time
  4. Recurring chest colds
  5. Less exercise tolerance
  6. Asthma that can’t be completely reversed with aggressive medical treatment
  7. Year-round allergies
  8. Bronchiectasis
One woman, Diane Angell, shared her story on a medication website :
"Gasping for air while cross-country skiing or coughing uncontrollably whenever around perfume or smoke, Idaho (US) native Diane Angell had always attributed her chronic shortness of breath to asthma.
"As a child, I noticed my mother’s chronic cough and constant use of cough drops," Diane said. "When I was in my 20s, I also developed a chronic cough. I was eventually diagnosed with asthma, but I didn’t feel my body was responding to the medication I was prescribed."
It wasn’t until Diane was in her early 40s and visiting her physician with gastrointestinal issues that tests showed signs of emphysema in her lungs."

Alpha-1 also affects the liver. 

Symptoms related to the liver:
  1. Unexplained liver disease or elevated liver enzymes
  2. Eyes and skin turning yellow (jaundice)
  3. Swelling of the abdomen (ascites) or legs
  4. Vomiting blood (from enlarged veins in the esophagus or stomach)
If any of these things sound familiar, check with your doctor. Alpha-1 can be diagnosed with a blood test. It's important to know exactly what condition you have (asthma or Alpha-1) if you're going to treat it properly. 
I'm hoping that all of us can take care of our lungs and keep breathing!


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