This month in Springfield, dozens of patients, volunteers and staff from Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC) are convening at the state capital for Illinois State Lung Health Advocacy Day.
Community leaders, patients and advocacy organizations are meeting with state senators and representatives to discuss lung health issues, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – the 4th leading cause of death in the United States and in Illinois.
One of the lesser-known lung diseases that are part of our policy agenda is Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (“Alpha-1”), a hereditary form of COPD. Most people are unfamiliar with this condition, and about 95 percent of people with Alpha-1 are unaware they have it. Alpha-1 is characterized by a low level of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin (AAT) protein in the blood. If left untreated, Alpha-1 can result in the early onset of emphysema, liver damage and even premature death.
It is estimated that 100,000 people in the U.S. have Alpha-1 but the disease often goes undiagnosed because its symptoms and conditions may masquerade as other illnesses. Getting tested is critical to diagnosing Alpha-1.