Radiation is energy that is sent out from a source. It can be found in nature. It can also be manmade. Radiation exposure is when a person is exposed. It can affect health, depending on the type and amount.
There are two types:
Ionizing radiation can injure cells. It is linked to cancer and other health problems.
Ionizing radiation can come from:
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The risk is higher for those who are near sources of radiation.
Health problems do not happen in everyone. The higher the exposure, the more likely there will be problems.
High doses of radiation over a short period of time may cause:
Low levels may not cause symptoms. Sometimes cancers grow years after exposure. They may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. Tests may be done on blood, urine, and stool.
A device may be used to check the amount of radiation in the body.
Treatment is based on the dose of exposure, the source, and the symptoms. The goal is to ease symptoms and reduce problems. It may include:
The risk of exposure may be lowered by:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Radiation Emergency Medical Management
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
Public Health Agency of Canada
Acute radiation syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-radiation-syndrome. Accessed February 3, 2021.
Frequently asked questions on potassium iodide (KI). US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/EmergencyPreparedness/BioterrorismandDrugPreparedness/ucm072265.htm#KI%20do. Accessed February 3, 2021.
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Radiation and potassium iodide (KI). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/japan/ki.asp. Accessed February 3, 2021.
Radiation emergency medical management: choose appropriate algorithm—evaluate for contamination and/or exposure. Radiation Emergency Medical Management website. Available at: https://www.remm.nlm.gov/newptinteract.htm#skip. Accessed February 3, 2021.
Rahman N, Khan R, Badshah S. Effect of x-rays and gamma radiations on the bone mechanical properties: literature review. Cell Tissue Bank. 2018;19(4):457-472.
Sun and other types of radiation. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure.html. Accessed February 3, 2021.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated: 2/3/2021