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Asthma: A Silent Killer?


Winter can be a hazardous time of year for those with asthma. Hospital admissions for asthma typically peak in the winter months, December and January. Falling temperatures and cold and flu viruses are just two of the dangers that put people with asthma at risk during the winter months.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 7.6 percent of adults and 8.4 percent of children in the U.S. have asthma. In 2015, 3,615 people in the country died from it.

Asthma is a condition in which the airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. For some, asthma symptoms can be minor; for others, it can be a major medical problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.

Signs and symptoms of asthma include: shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, and wheezing when exhaling. For some, asthma signs and symptoms can flare up in certain situations. Exposure to various irritants and substances that trigger allergies can trigger signs and symptoms of asthma. Asthma triggers can include: airborne substances (pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander), respiratory infections, physical activity (exercise-induced asthma), cold air, air pollutants and irritants (ie, smoke), etc.

There are diagnostic tests that can be performed to diagnose asthma including: lung function tests such as spirometry and peak flow. Lung function tests are done before and after taking a bronchodilator to open the airways. If lung function improves with use of a bronchodilator, it's likely asthma. Imaging can also be used for diagnosis. A chest X-ray and high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scan of the lungs and nose cavities (sinuses) can identify any structural abnormalities or diseases (such as infection) that can cause or aggravate breathing problems.

Asthma is classified into four general categories: mild intermittent (mild symptoms up to two days a week and up to two nights a month), mild persistent (symptoms more than twice a week but no more than once in a single day), moderate persistent (symptoms once a day and more than one night a week), and severe persistent (symptoms throughout the day on most days and frequently at night).

Prevention and long-term control are key in stopping asthma attacks before they start. Treatment usually involves recognizing triggers and taking steps to avoid them. In case of a flare-up, a quick-relief inhaler such as albuterol can be used. Long-term asthma control medications, generally taken daily, are the cornerstone of asthma treatment. These medications keep asthma under control on a day-to-day basis. Types of long-term control medications include: inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, and long-acting beta agonists.

The radiologists from Radiology Specialists of Florida at Florida Hospital soon to be Advent Health are very well trained and experienced. We have radiologists specifically trained to read high resolution CT, which may assist in the diagnosis of asthma. We keep up to date on the latest technology and information so that we can offer patients the best care.

The Florida Hospital Care Network delivers seamlessly connected healthcare services for all ages. Quality Imaging and Diagnostic starts today. For more information visit

Leena Kamat, MD, is a board-certified diagnostic radiologist, sub-specialized in breast imaging for Radiology Specialists of Florida at Florida Hospital. She earned her medical degree at the University of Florida, College of Medicine and following graduation completed her residency at the University of South Florida and a fellowship in breast imaging at the Moffitt Cancer Center.

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