Can Too Many X-Rays Really Be Dangerous?
A trip to the dentist can be nervewracking enough without being asked to don a heavy protective apron while having x-rays taken. Are x-rays really so dangerous that we need to put on armor against them? And what about all the other x-rays we may be subjected to over our lifetime? Coughs that won't quit may necessitate chest x-rays, while falls on pavement or concrete mean x-rays of our arms, legs, wrists, or even heads. Is all this radiation really bad for us? And is there anything we can do about it?
First, it's important to remember that we're exposed to small amounts of radiation as part of our everyday lives. According to the American College of Radiology, radon gas in our backyards accounts for the majority of our background radiation exposure. People living in mountainous regions get about 50 percent more background radiation than those near sea level. Commercial airline flights also expose us to radiation, but the amount is negligible.
Second, different parts of the body have very different degrees of sensitivity to radiation, meaning that your risk varies depending on what's being x-rayed. While a computed tomography (CAT scan) of your abdomen and pelvis gives you a radiation dose equal to three years of natural background radiation, a mammogram gives you a dose equivalent to just three months of background radiation. A bone densitometry (DEXA) scan? Less than one day's worth.
But what if you're pregnant? Are x-rays dangerous for your developing fetus? Most probably not, says the American College of Radiology. However, there may be a small risk of serious illness or other complication for the baby, depending on how far along you are and what kind of x-ray is used. X-rays of your head, chest, or extremities will generally be safer than x-rays of your midsection. If you do need an abdominal x-ray, the technician should be able to take special precautions to shield your fetus from the radiation. X-ray technologists are trained to deliver x-rays safely and with the minimum amount of radiation necessary, but if you're concerned, definitely speak to your doctor about the possibility of using another kind of test.
Since radiation doses are cumulative over a lifetime, it's a good idea to maintain accurate records of any x-rays you've had, especially if you change doctors.
Source: American College of Radiology, www.acr.org.
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Ice Falls Can Cause Serious Injuries
- 2. Can Inactivity Act Like a Disease?
- 3. Kale Snack Recipe for Diabetics
- 4. How Running Affects Arthritis
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.