Radiation sickness: symptoms and treatment

Radiation disease is a pathological condition of a person, which is caused by systematic exposure to the body of radioactive irradiation. The clinical picture is manifested if the dose of radiation exceeds 100 rad (1 Gy). If the dose is less than this, then we can talk about the asymptomatic course of radiation sickness.


The etiological factors that can trigger the development of radiation sickness are as follows:

  • a short but intense impact on the body of radiation waves
  • Systematic human irradiation with X-ray waves
  • ingress of radioactive compounds

Irradiation is possible even in the case of a minor exposure to the skin of radioactive rays. In this case, the signs of the disease appear on the affected area of ​​the skin. If at this stage the necessary medical aid is not provided and treatment is not started, the disease can give serious complications.


The pathogenesis of radiation sickness is quite simple. Radiation, which penetrates into human tissues, is the cause of the formation of an oxidative reaction. Against the backdrop of this process, the antioxidant protection system is significantly weakened and can not fully perform its functions. As a result, the affected cells die. Such a mechanism of the disease development leads to disruption of the normal functioning of such systems:

  1. central nervous system
  2. Gastrointestinal tract
  3. cardiovascular;
  4. Endocrine;
  5. Hematopoietic.

The higher the radiation dose a person receives, the faster the clinical picture will develop. In addition, it should be noted that if a person is at this time to be near the explosion or at its epicenter, the body will be given additional influence:

  • the impact of mechanical and light energy
  • high temperature.

Therefore, in addition to violations in the functioning of systems, chemical burns are possible.

Degrees of development of the disease and form

There are two forms of radiation sickness — chronic and acute. Chronic radiation sickness can not give signs at all until a certain moment. Acute radiation sickness has a well-defined clinical picture.

In modern medicine, four degrees of radiation sickness are distinguished:

  1. light (exposure to 2 Gy)
  2. Medium (2 to 4 Gy)
  3. Heavy (4 to 6 Gy)
  4. Very heavy (more than 6 Gy)

The last two stages of the disease have already irreversible processes. Not an exception — a lethal outcome.

General Symptoms

Chronic radiation sickness is asymptomatic in the initial stages. The clinical picture appears somewhat later.

Acute radiation sickness manifests itself in the form of such symptoms:

  • severe headache, sometimes accompanied by dizziness;
  • nausea and vomiting
  • nasal bleeding;
  • general malaise, weakness
  • when analyzing the blood, you can see an increased content of leukocytes and erythrocytes
  • in some places the skin turns red and starts to itch.

The period of manifestation of such symptoms lasts not more than one week. As the disease develops, the clinical picture is supplemented by such symptoms:

  1. reduced body temperature;
  2. severe headache;
  3. cramps in the lower limbs;
  4. decreased appetite, nausea;
  5. unstable blood pressure.

With the last degree of development of acute radiation sickness, the general condition of the patient significantly worsens, the clinical picture is supplemented by such symptoms:

  • hair loss, thinning of the skin and nail plates
  • disruption in the work of the genitourinary system (in women, a menstrual cycle, men have problems with potency)
  • the formation of ulcers on the mucous areas of the mouth, intestines and stomach
  • elevated temperature, for no apparent reason;
  • severely weakened immunity.

The last period of development of the acute form of the disease begins approximately 4 weeks after irradiation. Restoring the functionality of systems is possible if you start correct treatment. It is most difficult to restore the genitourinary system.

It is noteworthy that in the second stage of the development of acute radiation sickness, symptoms can disappear partially, the patient’s condition can significantly improve. But this does not at all indicate a person’s recovery.

After radiation sickness, the probability of complications is high. Most often this is due to the work of the gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system.

Classification of the disease

In modern medicine, different types of radiation sickness in terms of time and nature of localization.

By the time of irradiation, the following forms are distinguished:

  1. Single;
  2. Prolonged
  3. Chronic.

By the nature of the localization:

  • Local or general form
  • Uniform or uneven.

As medical practice shows, the acute stage of the development of the disease is accompanied by defeat in all areas of the skin and at all levels — tissue, molecular, organ. Almost always there is edema of the brain. If the patient is not provided with correct treatment, then a lethal outcome is not excluded.


In the presence of the above symptoms, you should immediately consult an oncologist or therapist. After personal examination and clarification of symptoms, a general anamnesis, laboratory and instrumental methods of research are carried out.

The laboratory research program includes the following:

  1. general blood and urine analysis
  2. biochemical blood test
  3. Testing blood for clotting.

As for instrumental research methods, the standard program includes such analyzes:

  • Puncture bone marrow biopsy
  • CT;
  • Ultrasound;
  • electroencephalography

Only on the basis of all the tests that have been passed can you accurately diagnose, reveal the degree of the disease and prescribe the correct course of treatment.

It should be noted that the diagnostic program can be supplemented by other research methods. It all depends on the extent to which the development of radiation sickness and which systems of the human body are involved in the pathological process.


Radiation disease of a person at an early stage is treated fairly well. But it should be understood that such an effect of radiation on the human body does not pass without a trace. After the course of treatment, the patient needs a long rehabilitation period.

Drug treatment involves taking such drugs:

  1. antihistamines
  2. antibiotics
  3. for general strengthening of the immune system
  4. Vitamin Complexes.

If the patient is diagnosed with a third stage of the disease, then in addition to the above drugs, prescribed antihemorrhagic drugs. Blood transfusion is also mandatory.

In addition, at any stage of the development of the disease, physiotherapy procedures are used — oxygen masks and exercise therapy. It is worth noting that during this period it is very important for the patient to eat right. Proper treatment of radiation sickness gives positive results and significantly reduces the risk of serious diseases.

Nutrition for radiation sickness

During the period of treatment and taking medication, the patient should eat correctly:

  • consume an optimum amount of liquid — at least 2 liters per day (including juices and tea)
  • Do not drink while eating;
  • preference is given to steamed food
  • Minimized consumption of fatty, acute, salty.

You need to eat in small portions, but quite often — at least 5 times a day. Smoking and consumption of alcohol, of course, is excluded.

Possible complications

Depending on the nature of the disease and the general health of the patient, radiation sickness can cause complications. Most often the consequences of radiation sickness are as follows:

  1. diseases of an ophthalmic nature
  2. malignant tumors that can cause severe oncological diseases
  3. complete baldness of the skin of a person
  4. disorders in hematopoiesis

Such complications can be avoided, at least partially, if the disease is diagnosed at an early stage and correct treatment is started. Therefore, with the first symptoms you need to immediately seek medical help.


Prevention of radiation sickness is especially important for those people who live in a zone of high radiation. But to residents of other countries, such activities are also important.

For people who are at risk, prevention is as follows:

  • taking vitamins of group B6, P, C;
  • hormonal anabolic drugs
  • drugs to strengthen the immune system.

But you need to consume these drugs strictly according to the doctor’s instructions.

General prophylaxis includes the intake of radioprotectors, vitamins and general strengthening of immunity. Such measures minimize the risk of developing a pathological process. If a person has the above listed signs of ailment, you should immediately seek medical help. Procrastination or self-medication can not only accelerate the development of the disease, but also cause serious complications.