What are X-Rays?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Apr 06, 2013

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What are X Rays

X-rays have the property that can traverse relatively thick objects without being much absorbed or scattered, thus, x-Rays are used in medicine to capture images of most parts of the human body. Through the use of invisible electromagnetic energy, which slips through the layers of mass and bones in the human body, images are captured on a thin film, thus producing an x-ray. These images assist in achieving a clear idea of what is really happening under the several layers of tissue and muscle in the human body. The penetration depth varies with several orders of magnitude over the X-ray spectrum.


[Read: An Overview of Dental X-Rays]


To detect for tumors in cross-sections of the body, computed tomography (CT) scan is used. A CT scan is an imaging method that uses x-rays to create pictures of cross-sections of the body. It is a medical imaging modality where tomographic images or slices of specific areas of the body are obtained from a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images taken in different directions.


[Read: Can Exposure to Radiation Cause Leukaemia?]



X-rays are broadly categorized into:

  • Bone and Teeth x-rays: Fractures and infections in bones and teeth can show up on x-rays and become identified for treatment. Dental decay is commonly found by dentists using x-rays to check for cavities in a patient's mouth. Osteoporosis can also be identified through x-ray tests that measure the density of a person's bones and even bone cancer is often revealed through tumors that can be revealed through X-rays.


  • Chest x-rays: Lung infections or conditions like pneumonia, tuberculosis, lung cancer or evidence of any of these can show up on chest x-rays. Breast cancer is often found and monitored through a special type of x-ray test called mammography, which examines and shows variations in breast tissue. Blocked blood vessels can also be seen on x-rays when a contrast material containing iodine is injected into a patient's circulatory system.


  • Abdomen x-rays: Digestive tract problems can be revealed anywhere in the digestive system with the aid of Barium, a contrast medium a patient needs to receive through enema. Swallowed items can be identified and located through X-rays.


  • Intravenous urogram (IVU): it helps in taking x-rays of kidneys and bladder. IVU is often used to diagnose urinary system problems.


[Read: X- Ray Scanners at Airport Emit Radiation]


Generally, there are no side effects of routine diagnostic X-rays. Though, one may experience bleeding, pain, swelling or redness, if he or she has received an injection of contrast medium just before the X-rays. If this happens, it is best to consult with the doctor.

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