Chronic Cough

Is Your Chronic Cough Genetic?

If you’re experiencing an unexplained, long-term persistent cough, you might have a rare genetic condition called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency.

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1) is a genetic condition passed from parents to their children through their genes. Genes are the code, or instructions, to our body’s cells that give us blue eyes, black hair, and so on. We inherit our genes from our parents – half from each parent – so we say our skin color or other characteristic is inherited or genetic. Because Alpha-1 is genetic, Alpha-1 lung disease is commonly called “genetic COPD.” People with Alpha-1 lung disease have two abnormal genes (one from each parent). The most common abnormal genes are called Z and S genes.

There are about 100,000 people with Alpha-1 (two Z genes, usually referred to just as “ZZ”) in the United States, and about the same number in Europe. Another severely deficient gene combination is SZ, though people with this gene combination are less likely to get lung problems than those with two Z genes. Many Alphas (as people with Alpha-1 are called), even those with ZZ or SZ genes, are entirely healthy.

The most common signs of lung disease in people with Alpha-1:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chronic cough and sputum (phlegm) production (chronic bronchitis)
  • Recurring chest colds or pneumonia
  • Low tolerance for exercise
  • Year-round allergies
  • Bronchiectasis

Alpha-1 Introduction Video

Watch Video here