Respiratory Therapist/Alpha 1


Good Day -
I'm not sure if you can give me information, I'm trying to wrap my head around things right now, and just trying to prepare for my future.

My father was recently diagnosed with the genetic mutation of Alpha 1, after being diagnosed with advanced stage 4 emphesyma/COPD (he's only 57).

After months of dilly dallying I went and got tested. The results came back with 2 present genes of alpha one with the possibility of at least 1 null gene.

I'm planning a visit to a doctor however, I'm just wondering what I'm in for. I work in a factory. Everything I've read on it says "Avoid inhaling fumes/dust/smoke" etc... is it possible I'm going to lose my job over this? (not that they'd fire me, I mean just because of my future health and environment). I'm only 31 years old but I've had respiratory problems my entire life, bronchitis, this year alone I've had a terrible cough from January on.

Hi Jay,

Let me first say, I am terribly sorry to hear of your father's unfortunate diagnoses. Having advanced COPD is tough enough, but to hear Alpha-1 on top of it is particularly heart-breaking to hear.

It sounds like you've done your research so far, but as you probably know, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD) is an inherited condition that causes low levels of, or no, alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) in the blood. AATD occurs in approximately 1 in 2,500 individuals. This condition is found in all ethnic groups; however, it occurs most often in whites of European ancestry. This AAT stuff is a protein that is made in the liver, which in turn releases this protein into the bloodstream. AAT protects the lungs so they can work normally. Without enough AAT, the lungs can be damaged, and this damage may make breathing difficult.

Everyone has two copies of the gene for AAT and receives one copy of the gene from each parent. Most people have two normal copies of the alpha-1 antitrypsin gene. Individuals with AATD have one normal copy and one damaged copy, or they have two damaged copies. Most individuals who have one normal gene can produce enough alpha-1 antitripsin to live healthy lives, especially if they do not smoke.

People who have two damaged copies of the gene are not able to produce enough alpha- 1 antitrypsin, which leads them to have more severe symptoms, like your father. My short answer would be No, I don't think you are at risk at losing your job over this potential condition as long as you wear a proper ventilation mask when actively working around floating debris and fumes and whatnot. Would you be better off long-term with an office job? Probably, yes. BUt if you have Alpha-1, it will progress at its usual course no matter what lifestyle changes you make...but changing your work environment can certainly help you.  

I hope this helps, but please hit me back if it doesn't or if you need further information.

Take care,

Larry W, BA-RRT  

Respiratory Therapist

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Larry W. Wical, BA-RRT


I CAN answer: ALL questions and queries related to the following topics... - Oxygen - Asthma - COPD - Bronchitis - Emphysema - Pneumonia (Viral/Bacterial) - Tuberculosis (TB) - SARS - Influenza (Flu) - Vaccines - Pulmonary Embolism - Pleural Effusion - Atelectasis - Inhalation injuries (burns, chemicals, etc.) - PFTs - Cardiovascular health - Sleep Apnea - BiPap/CPAP - Ventilators ("Respirators") - Aspiration injuries - Thoracic injuries - Lung contusions - Tracheal injuries - Artificial Tracheostomy - Secretions - Prolotherapy/Regenerative Injection Therapy (RIT): A patient's experience/perspective - General health and fitness I CANNOT answer: Questions that vary too far from my primary scope of pulmonary and cardiovascular care and fitness. I promise to be open and honest about my knowledge of submitted topics, and will always openly provide my personal as well as professional feedback as it relates.


Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT, RCP) since 2005. I have worked primarily in the acute care, critical care, burn care and home care settings.

NBRC - National Board of Respiratory Care AARC - American Association of Respiratory Care

-All About Kids Magazine -The Clermont Sun -Cincy Sports & Fitness Magazine -Many online Fitness and Health blogs and "webazines"

- B.A. in Communication (1997) - A.A.S. in Respiratory Science (2005) - RRT license (state of OH, KY and IN) - Basic Life Saving (BLS) - Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) - Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS)

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Currently work in the city's largest academic/research hospital.

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