X-rays are short wavelength rays that can pass through tissues, which are opaque to normal light. They then cast shadows of the dense tissues like bone on special screens and help to study their structures.
Where are they used?
Though X-rays were first used in physical experiments, their use in medical science began early in the 20th century. Chest X-ray is the most commonly performed radiographic procedure. Other areas where X-rays are used widely are :
Bone deformities and fractures
Lung diseases like pneumonia
Heart abnormalities like congestive heart failure
Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract
Mammography to detect breast cancer
How is an X-ray taken?
Taking an X-ray is an easy and non-invasive procedure. The patient is made to expose the desired part of the body under an X-ray machine. The doctor and technicians then step away to avoid unnecessary exposure to the X-rays. The X-rays are emitted from the X-ray machine and pass through the desired area to hit the photographic film. The rays expose the film much like in a camera.
When the film is developed, the image of the organ can be seen. The less dense tissues allow more rays to pass through and when the film is developed, these areas emerge darker than the others. More dense tissues like bone appear white. The diseased parts of the organs can then be seen.
Are X-rays safe?
X-rays are safe if the procedure is performed under controlled conditions. Some precautions may have to be taken while taking an X-ray. The body parts that are not being examined are covered with an apron to prevent unnecessary exposure to the rays. Special precautions are taken to cover the reproductive organs since they are extra sensitive to X-rays.
What can be the side effects?
Though the side effects are minimal, over-exposure to X-rays may damage healthy tissues. Prolonged exposure may cause skin burns or even cancer. Special care is taken during pregnancy since exposure to X-rays may produce abnormalities in the fetus. Over exposure can sometimes cause nausea and vomiting in some people.