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Radiation Sickness Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is Radiation Sickness?

Radiation sickness is a collection of health effects which present within 24 hours of exposure to high amounts of ionizing radiation.

The radiation causes cellular degradation due to damage to DNA and other key molecular structures within the cells in various tissues; this destruction, particularly as it affects ability of cells to divide normally, in turn causing the symptoms.

The symptoms can begin within one or two hours and may last for several months. The terms refer to acute medical problems rather than ones that develop after a prolonged period.

The onset and type of symptoms depends on the radiation exposure. Relatively smaller doses result in gastrointestinal effects while larger doses result in neurological effects and rapid death.

Causes of Radiation Sickness:

Radiation Sickness is caused by exposure to a large dose of ionizing radiation over a short period of time.

This might be a result of:

  1. A nuclear explosion
  2. A criticality accident
  3. A radiotherapy accident as in Therac-25
  4.  A solar flare during interplanetary travel
  5. Escape of radioactive waste as in the 1987 Goiânia accident
  6. Human error in a nuclear reactor
  7. Space flights where astronauts are exposed to both galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) and solar particle event (SPE) radiation.

Symptoms of Radiation Sickness:

The severity of signs and symptoms of radiation sickness depends on how much radiation one has absorbed.

This in turn depends on the strength of the radiated energy and the distance between the affected person and the source of radiation.

The following symptoms are exhibited:

  • Hematopoietic
  1. Aplastic anemia.
  2. Development of infections due to a low amount of white blood cells.
  3. Bleeding due to a lack of platelets.
  4. Anemia due to few red blood cells in the circulation.
  5. Bleeding from the nose, mouth, gums, and rectum
  6. Bloody stool
  • Gastrointestinal
  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting
  3. Loss of appetite
  4. Abdominal pain
  • Neurovascular
  1. Dizziness
  2. Headache
  3. Decreased level of consciousness
  • Bruising
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Hair loss
  • Inflammation of exposed areas (redness, tenderness, swelling, bleeding)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Open sores on the skin
  • Skin burns (redness, blistering)
  • Sloughing of skin
  • Ulcers (sores) in the esophagus (Food Pipe), stomach or intestines
  • Weakness

Diagnosis of Radiation Sickness:

Diagnosis is typically made based on a history of significant radiation exposure and suitable clinical findings.
An absolute lymphocyte count can give a rough estimate of radiation exposure.

Time from exposure to vomiting can also give estimates of exposure levels if they are less than 1000 rad.

Treatment of Radiation Sickness:

The treatment goals for Radiation Sickness are:

  • To prevent further radioactive contamination
  • Treat life-threatening injuries such as:
  1. From burns
  2. From  trauma
  • Reduce symptoms
  • Manage pain

The following treatments are undertaken:

  • Decontamination
  • Treatment for damaged bone marrow
  1.  Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor
  • Treatment for internal contamination
  1. Potassium iodide (Thyroshield, Iosat)
  2. Prussian blue (Radiogardase)
  3. Diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA)

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By : Natural Health News

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