What is an X-Ray?
X-ray is a kind of radiation known as electromagnetic waves. Its imaging makes pictures of the insides of the body. The part of the body is shown by varying shades of black and white by the images created. The difference in shades is due to different tissues absorbing different quantities of radiation. The calcium present in our bones is the most absorbent to x-rays. Hence, the bones appear white. The soft tissues, such as fat, look grey as they absorb less radiation. Lungs appear black as air is the least absorbent to radiation.
Uses of an X-Ray
X-rays are most commonly used to check for broken bones (fractures). They are used for other purposes as well. For example, they are used in mammograms for checking for breast cancer. Pneumonia is spotted by using chest x-rays. If you have ever had an x-ray of a part of your body, you know how it gets done. You are made to wear a lead apron for protecting specific parts of the body. You get a minimal amount of radiation from the x-ray. For example, the amount of radiation a person will receive after a chest x-ray is similar to the amount we are naturally exposed to in the environment over ten days.
What does the X in X-Rays Stand for?
It was in 1895 when Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, a German physicist, discovered a new kind of radiation. He named it X-radiation as he had no clue what it was. It was mysterious radiation that had the ability to pass through many materials that absorb visible light. Did your x-rays are also capable of knocking electrons loose from the atoms?
These exceptional characteristics are what have made X-ray so useful across so many fields over the years. It includes medicine as well as research n the nature of atoms. We also have the Chandra X-ray observatory. So, to answer it in simpler words, the ‘X’ in X-Ray stands for nothing at all. When Röntgen submitted his scientific paper, he referred to that radiation as a simple ‘X’ for indicating that the radiation was yet to be known or named. The ‘x’ stuck and is still in use.
Looking into the Discovery of X-Rays
As per the “History of Radiography” by the Nondestructive Resource Center, the discovery of x-rays was pretty interesting. Röentgen saw crystals near the high-voltage tube of cathode-ray showing a fluorescent glow. It continued to happen even after he used dark paper to shield the crystals. The tube was producing a specific form of energy that kept penetrating the dark paper. It resulted in the crystals glowing.
As he did not know what form of energy was making the crystals glow, he named it the “x-radiation”. After several experiments, it was made clear that this radiation has the ability to penetrate through soft tissues and can project shadow images over photographic plates. In 1901, Röentgen received the first Nobel Prize in the field of physics for this discovery.
When Do You Need to Get an X-Ray?
Your doctor may advise you to get an x-ray for various reasons. It can be for examining a region where you are experiencing discomfort or pain, monitoring the progression of osteoporosis or any other diagnosed disease, or checking how good any prescribed treatment is performing. Conditions for which you may have to get an X-ray done include bone cancer, breast tumours, enlarged heart, blocked blood vessels, conditions affecting the lungs, and so on. It is also used for digestive problems, fractures, infections, osteoporosis, arthritis, tooth decay, or the need to retrieve a swallowed item.
How is an X-Ray Performed?
An X-ray radiologist or technologist usually performs an X-ray in a clinic that holds specialization in diagnostic procedures, a radiology department of a hospital, or a dentist’s chamber. After you are totally prepared, the X-ray radiologist or technician would make you position your body in a certain way which would create clear images. You may have to sit, stand or lie in several positions in the test. You may also have to stand in front of his/her specialized plate, which has X-ray sensors or film.
There are cases where the technician may also tell you to sit or lie on that specialized plate while moving a big camera that is connected to a steel arm above your body for capturing the X-Ray pictures. Make sure you stay still throughout the process unless asked otherwise. Stillness is essential while the images are created as it would deliver the clearest images possible. Once the radiologist or technician is satisfied with the resulting images, you are done with the test.
The Side Effects of an X-Ray
X-rays use radiation in small quantities for creating images of the body. The amount of radiation exposure during an X-ray test is regarded as safe for almost all adults but not for developing babies. If you are pregnant, inform your doctor before having an X-ray. S/he might suggest an MRI or some other imaging methods. If you need an X-ray test to help manage or diagnose a painful condition, like a fracture, be ready to experience some amount of discomfort or pain in the process.
As you need to get into certain positions when images are being created, you may feel uneasy or in pain. Your doctor may advise you to take pain medicine in advance. Ingesting any contrast item before an X-ray can lead to side effects. These would include hives, itching, nausea, lightheadedness, or a metallic taste in the mouth.
There are very rare instances where a dye causes any severe reactions, such as a cardiac arrest, extremely low blood pressure, or an anaphylactic shock. You must contact your doctor as soon as you suspect experiencing any such reactions. It goes without saying that there are certain dangers involved while getting an X-Ray. However, for most people, the risks are outweighed by the potential benefits. It would help if you talked to a radiologist or your doctor to get more information on what is best for you.