Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is a genetic disorder; inherited or passed down at birth. Alpha-1 antitrypsin is a protein that protects the lungs. Without enough of it, the lungs are vulnerable to conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
People with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency are extremely vulnerable to lung damage from smoke, making cigarettes especially dangerous for people with the disorder.
Alpha-1 is tested for by blood testing, and family members of confirmed cases should be tested as well.
Anyone with relatives who have alpha-1 should consult a physician for testing.