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Radiation damage may occur after a patient receives radiation therapy or is exposed to products or substances containing radiation, such as excessive X-ray imaging, nuclear power, or fallout from atomic weapons. Radiation damage may cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems. Acute radiation sickness occurs within 24 hours of exposure. Chronic radiation syndrome involves a range of symptoms occurring over an extended time.
Signs and Symptoms
Radiation damage is accompanied by the following signs and symptoms, which can occur immediately or appear months or years later.
What Causes It?
Damage occurs when radiation interacts with oxygen, causing certain molecules to form that are capable of damaging or breaking strands of DNA in the body's cells. This can result in cell death.
Who's Most At Risk?
People who have been exposed to radiation and who also have the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for developing radiation damage.
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with radiation damage, you should see your health care provider. A physical exam, lab tests, pathology tests, and imaging procedures such as barium radiography or colonoscopy may be performed.
If you are receiving radiation treatment to treat cancer, your health care provider can take certain precautions to help prevent or reduce the risk of radiation damage. These may include administering low-dose radiation, using radioprotectant chemicals, and using special shields for other parts of your body.
The treatment plan depends on the type of radiation damage. Decontamination, if warranted, is essential. Transfusion of fluids, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets may be necessary.
Your provider may prescribe a variety of medications, depending on the specific ailments resulting from radiation damage.
Surgical and Other Procedures
Surgery may be required to prevent further cell damage, or to graft healthy tissue onto a damaged area.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
A comprehensive treatment plan for radiation damage may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies.
Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include the following.
Herbal remedies may offer relief from symptoms. Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise noted). Dose for teas is 1 heaping tsp/cup water steeped for 10 minutes (roots need 20 minutes).
The following may be helpful for acute effects.
Radium bromatum is specific for radiation poisoning, especially followed by arthritic complaints. Acute dose is three to five pellets of 12X to 30C every one to four hours until symptoms are relieved.
A body wash of coneflower, goldenseal, comfrey root (Symphytum officinalis), and sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) helps healing and reduces the risk of infection. Vitamin E oil applied to the skin twice daily, and Aloe vera extract applied as needed help healing.
The outcome varies depending on the level of radiation exposure, the promptness of treatment, and the thoroughness of ongoing monitoring. Long-term complications may include cancer, liver failure, deformity, sterility, and thickening and scarring of lung, liver, and kidney tissue.
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