After a year of coughing, a few doctor appointments, a CT Scan of the lungs, a PFT and loads of blood work and I now have my answer to why this obnoxious cough is still apart of my life. It was not the answer I was expecting....but it was an answer indeed. My Ct scan of my lungs was pretty unremarkable. My pulmonary test was so-so. However, when one goes digging for answers, one should not be suprised with the results. And the conversation with my pulmonologist started off something like this..."Kelly your labs showed something, but I don't want you to go and read too deep into this....". Knowing very well that I would.
My immunity blood tests revealed that I am a carrier of Alpha 1 Antitrypsin or AAT. Meaning this is a genetic condition leading to a missing protien in the liver that affects both the liver and the lungs. The enzymes main purpose is to protect the lungs from inflammation. Those with the full blown disease wind up with severe respiratory or liver conditions which can lead to a need for transplants or early death. Those that fall in between usually have COPD, emphysema or basic liver complications.
Being that I am a nurse, I often care for patients with these horrible conditions and symptoms. I understand how sick it can make a person. This does not excite me nor does it make me want to progress past being a carrier. But it does help me understand some of my respiratory issues over the years. My lung collapsing, frequent pneumonia, sensitivity to smoke...I could go on.
Now I have a choice....I can let my hypochondria kick in...or I can use this knowledge and change some of my habits....to try to keep the AAT at bay and hopefully not progress any further. Overall, I live a pretty healthy lifestyle. Somethings definatetly have room for improvement i.e. better eating habits, increased exercise and wearing a mask when I do construction and dust producing activities. I will also need to have yearly pulmonary function tests to monitor my lung capacity.
The statistics show that 1 in every 2500-3000 are carriers. Often leading to certain conditions being misdiagnoses. I have attached a link for anyone that is curious to find out more.