Health

What Are X-Rays?

What Are X-Rays?

X-rays are types of electromagnetic radiation probably most well-known for their ability to see through a person’s skin and reveal images of the bones beneath it. Advances in technology have led to more powerful and focused X-ray beams as well as ever greater applications of these light waves, from imaging teensy biological cells and structural components of materials like cement to killing cancer cells. X-rays are roughly classified into soft X-rays and hard X-rays. Soft X-rays have relatively short wavelengths of about 10 nanometers (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter), and so they fall in the range of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum between ultraviolet (UV) light and gamma-rays. Hard X-rays have wavelengths of about 100 picometers (a picometer is one-trillionth of a meter). These electromagnetic waves occupy the same region of the EM spectrum as gamma-rays. The only difference between them is their source: X-rays are produced by accelerating electrons, whereas gamma-rays are produced by atomic nuclei in one of four nuclear reactions.

History of X-rays.

X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röentgen, a professor at Würzburg University in Germany. According to the Nondestructive Resource Center’s “History of Radiography,” Röentgen noticed crystals near a high-voltage cathode-ray tube exhibiting a fluorescent glow, even when he shielded them with dark paper. Some form of energy was being produced by the tube that was penetrating the paper and causing the crystals to glow. Röentgen called the unknown energy “X-radiation.” Experiments showed that this radiation could penetrate soft tissues but not bone, and would produce shadow images on photographic plates.

X-ray therapy.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA. Since the treatment can also damage normal cells, the National Cancer Institute recommends that treatment be carefully planned to minimize side effects. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, so-called ionizing radiation from X-rays zaps a focused area with enough energy to completely strip electrons from atoms and molecules, thus altering their properties. In sufficient doses, this can damage or destroy cells. While this cell damage can cause cancer, it can also be used to fight it. By directing X-rays at cancerous tumors, it can demolish those abnormal cells.

Why is an X-ray performed?

Your doctor may order an X-ray to:

▪️examine an area where you’re experiencing pain or discomfort.

▪️monitor the progression of a diagnosed disease, such as osteoporosis.

▪️check how well a prescribed treatment is working.

Conditions that may call for an X-ray include:

_ bone cancer.

_ breast tumors.

_enlarged heart.

_blocked blood vessels.

_conditions affecting your lungs.

_digestive problems.

_fractures.

_infections.

_osteoporosis.

_arthritis.

_tooth decay.

_needing to retrieve swallowed items.

How should you prepare for an X-ray?

X-rays are standard procedures. In most cases, you won’t need to take special steps to prepare for them. Depending on the area that your doctor and radiologist are examining, you may want to wear loose, comfortable clothing that you can easily move around in. They may ask you to change into a hospital gown for the test. They may also ask you to remove any jewelry or other metallic items from your body before your X-ray is taken.

Always tell your doctor or radiologist if you have metal implants from prior surgeries. These implants can block X-rays from passing through your body and creating a clear image.In some cases, you may need to take a contrast material or “contrast dye” before your X-ray. This is a substance that will help improve the quality of the images. It may contain iodine or barium compounds. Depending on the reason for the X-ray, the contrast dye may be given in different ways, including:

▪️via a liquid that you swallow.

▪️injected into your body.

▪️given to you as an enema before your test.

If you’re having an X-ray to examine your gastrointestinal tract, your doctor may ask you to fast for a certain amount of time beforehand. You will need to avoid eating anything while you fast. You may also need to avoid or limit drinking certain liquids. In some cases, they may also ask you to take medications to clear out your bowels.

How is the procedure performed?

An X-ray technologist or radiologist can perform an X-ray in a hospital’s radiology department, a dentist’s office, or a clinic that specializes in diagnostic procedures.

Once you’re fully prepared, your X-ray technician or radiologist will tell you how to position your body to create clear images. They may ask you to lie, sit, or stand in several positions during the test. They may take images while you stand in front of a specialized plate that contains X-ray film or sensors. In some cases, they may also ask you to lie or sit on a specialized plate and move a large camera connected to a steel arm over your body to capture X-ray images.

It’s important to stay still while the images are being taken. This will provide the clearest images possible.The test is finished as soon as your radiologist is satisfied with the images gathered.

What are the potential side effects of an X-Ray?

X-rays use small amounts of radiation to create images of your body. The level of radiation exposure is considered safe for most adults, but not for a developing baby. If you’re pregnant or believe you could be pregnant, tell your doctor before you have an X-ray. They may suggest a different imaging method, such as an MRI.

If you’re having an X-ray done to help diagnose or manage a painful condition, such as a broken bone, you may experience pain or discomfort during the test. You will need to hold your body in certain positions while the images are being taken. This may cause you pain or discomfort. Your doctor may recommend taking pain medicine beforehand.If you ingest a contrast material before your X-ray, it may cause side effects. These include:

▪️hives.

▪️itching.

▪️nausea.

▪️lightheadedness.

▪️a metallic taste in your mouth.

In very rare cases, the dye can cause a severe reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, very low blood pressure, or cardiac arrest. If you suspect you’re having a severe reaction, contact your doctor immediately.

Reference:

“What Are X-Rays?”, www.livescience.com

Brian Krans (2016-12-5), “X-Ray”، www.healthline.com

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