Skip to content

    COPD Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Starts in the Liver

    If you have alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, also called alpha-1, you have a greater chance of liver disease.

    Most people don't have serious liver problems, though. And if you have a young child with alpha-1, she will most likely go on to enjoy a healthy childhood.

    Recommended Related to COPD

    COPD and Sex

    If you or your partner are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you may be wondering what effect COPD will have on your sexuality. Will sex be possible? Will it be safe? Satisfying? COPD symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath will almost certainly change the way you and your partner express yourselves sexually. But that doesn’t mean you must bid adieu to sex or other forms of physical intimacy. Of course, good sex isn’t automatic when COPD is in the picture...

    Read the COPD and Sex article > >

    Your best defense is to live a healthy lifestyle and to work with your doctor to take good care of your liver problems, or ease problems if they do happen.

    How Alpha-1 Affects Your Liver

    Alpha-1 is a rare disease that makes an enzyme in your liver work poorly. Alpha-1 antitrypsin protein usually travels from your liver through your blood to protect your lungs and other organs. But if the proteins aren't the right shape, they can get stuck in your liver.

    This can cause cirrhosis, severe liver damage and scarring, and liver cancer. And because the proteins aren't traveling to your lungs like they should, it can also cause lung problems.

    Liver Symptoms

    If you are an adult whose liver is affected by alpha-1, you may have:

    A child born with alpha-1 may have liver symptoms in the first weeks of life. See your child's doctor if your baby has the above symptoms or:

    Liver symptoms may also appear when a child is older. These can include:

    Are You at Risk?

    You can only get alpha-1 if both your parents carry a faulty gene and pass it to you. If the gene is passed to you from only one parent, you won't get the disease, but you will be a carrier and can pass the gene to your children.

    Most people with alpha-1 don't have liver problems. Your lifetime chance of getting them is 30% to 40%. Liver disease is most likely after age 50.

    Babies and AAT Liver Problems

    About 1 in 20 babies with two broken genes will get liver disease during their first year.

    But most children with this disorder grow up without major liver problems. Many never have symptoms. The disease may improve on its own by the teen years.

    In rare cases, your child may need a liver transplant in the first few years of life.

    Today on WebMD

    man talking to his doctor
    Check your COPD risk.
    woman using inhaler
    What is the top cause of this condition?
     
    chest x-ray
    7 early warning signs.
    Senior couple stretching
    10 exercises for people With COPD.
     
    Bronchitis Overview
    Article
    Senior woman blowing dandelion
    ARTICLE
     
    Living With Copd
    VIDEO
    human lung graphic
    Article
     
    Energy Boosting Foods
    Slideshow
    red heart and ekg
    Article
     
    Living With Copd
    Article
    Senior couple stretching
    Slideshow
     

    WebMD Special Sections