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Radiation Poisoning Symptoms

Radiation poisoning or radiation sickness is seen in many people across the world today. There are many sources of radiation around us and if we notice any radiation sickness symptoms, we must deal with it immediately. Failing to do so could cause a lot of discomfort and in extreme cases, it could even result in cancer.
Rahul Thadani
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
Radiation poisoning is a condition that is commonly seen nowadays, due to the great surge in technology. Apart from man-made technological devices that emit radiation, there are many natural sources of radiation in the atmosphere as well. All these sources of radiation may not necessarily be the cause of acute medical problems or symptoms, but the exposure to these sources definitely adds up to the amount of radiation that we are exposed to, on a daily basis. The intensity and the nature of symptoms that an individual shows, depends on two things - the strength of the absorbed radiated energy, and the distance between you and the source of this radiated energy.
Types of Radiation
You must first understand what the sources of radiation are in our world today. Simply put, there are two types of radiation - ionizing and nonionizing. Nonionizing radiation generally does not cause us much damage and is known mainly to be emitted from natural sources. This radiation reaches us in the form of light, microwaves, radio waves and radar. Tissue damage or other repercussions caused by these sources is very rarely seen.
The other form of radiation, ionizing radiation, is much more damaging and harmful for human beings. These radiations produce immediate chemical effects on human tissues and can cause great damage if there is continued exposure to them. Any medical problems or unexplainable symptoms that you may see, are in all likelihood caused by these ionizing sources of radiation. The sources of ionizing radiation are as follows.
  • X-rays
  • Gamma rays
  • Any form of particle bombardment
  • Any kind of medical testing equipment.
  • Exposure to nuclear radiation caused by a nuclear accident or otherwise.
Prolonged exposure to any of these sources can be the cause of severe side effects in human beings as well as animals. A single large exposure to such sources is known as acute radiation exposure, and a prolonged exposure of smaller quantities over a period of time is known as chronic radiation exposure.
Symptoms of Radiation Poisoning
Once the radiation reaches the body, it will try to combat the effects of the radiation. The degree of poisoning will depend on the amount of time the person was exposed, the body part that was exposed, the genetic composition and the distance between the person and the source of exposure. Since it is extremely difficult to measure the degree of radiation poisoning in a person, the best ways to judge the severity of exposure are the time duration between exposure and the outburst of radiation poisoning, the severity of the symptoms and the degree of changes in the White Blood Cells (WBC).
Given below are a list of commonly seen symptoms that can only arise when an individual has been directly or indirectly exposed to levels of radiation. If you or a family member or a friend are exhibiting any of these, you must immediately visit a hospital and get yourself checked up.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Excessive diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Redness, blistering, tenderness or any inflammation of skin
  • Fatigue, weakness and fainting
  • Hair loss
  • Bloody stool
  • Open sores on the skin
  • Bruising and sloughing of skin
  • Bleeding from the nose, mouth and the gums
  • Ulceration of the esophagus, stomach or intestines
  • High fever
  • Slow healing of wounds
Acute Radiation Syndrome
ARS is the medical term assigned to a state wherein an individual is exposed to ionizing radiation and develops certain acute problems as a result. In effect, this condition represents the outburst of medical issues fairly quickly, rather than as a result of prolonged exposure to radiation for long periods of time. Though this condition can be treated easily with a dosage of antibiotics and blood transfusion, the severity of the condition will ultimately determine the state that the individual will find himself in. Most of the symptoms that he exhibits will come under the aforementioned categories, and in extreme cases, they will be taken to a higher level.
Almost all such cases will exhibit something known as a prodrome before the actual disease sets in. A prodrome is a set of unrelated symptoms that usually precedes the state of actual sickness, and these are the signs that doctors and medical specialists are taught to look out for. Once the prodrome stage settles down, the following are the different kinds that surface as a result of exposure to radiation.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Vomiting, nausea and excruciating pain in the abdominal area usually afflict individuals in such a scenario. These are the most easily recognizable signs of ARS.
  • Hematopoietic problems: Radiation exposure affects the blood cell count in the human body, and several simple tests can show this to be the cause when the individuals blood cell count drops. This usually results in tons of complications like anemia and excessive bleeding.
  • Neurovascular problems: Such problems arise when an individual has been exposed to high levels of radiation. Also includes loss of motor skills and loss of consciousness, amongst many others.
If the individual has been exposed for long periods, then he will also develop another condition known as Cutaneous Radiation Syndrome (CRS). This condition will bring with it the complications mentioned above, and along with them, also affect the physical appearance of the skin. Severe itching, redness, emergence of blisters and ulcers, hair loss and several other conditions appear as a result. And if the exposure continues, the individual also stands a high probability of contracting multiple cancers in the body.
Depending on what symptoms you exhibit and in what degree, the doctor will prescribe certain medications to deal with each and every one. He will also try to ascertain the source of this radiation and if it is found to be an avoidable source, you must do so by all means. All of these are a clear indicator that you have been exposed to excessive radiation and are suffering from radiation poisoning. Corrective measures must be taken as soon as possible. The risk of cancer is also very high in people who are regularly being exposed to excessive amounts of ionized radiation.