Early symptoms of radiation sickness include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue, followed by headache, inflammation of mouth and throat, bleeding and anemia. In severe cases of exposure, death may occur within two to four weeks.
Long-term effects tend to occur much later, as late as 10 to 15 years after a radiation disaster. The body’s endocrine, or hormone-secreting, glands appear to be particularly sensitive to radiation, leading to increases in thyroid cancers along with problems of the nervous and sensory organs, disorders of digestive organs, and of bone, muscle and connective tissue.
Genetic mutations tend to occur twice as often in the children of families exposed to radioactive fallout, causing permanent damage that can be inherited. It is now widely believed that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster led to a massive increase in thyroid cancers in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
Exposure to radiation can cause devastating damage to the immune system and to the tissues of the body. The effects are known as radiation sickness or syndrome. Radiation can also cause little understood changes to the body’s genes, which can be manifested through the development of diseases such as cancer later in life, and possibly as birth defects in future generations.
Radiation poisoning, also called “radiation sickness” or a “creeping dose”, is a form of damage to organ tissue due to excessive exposure to ionizing radiation. The term is generally used to refer to acute problems caused by a large dosage of radiation in a short period, though this also has occurred with long term exposure to low level radiation. Many of the symptoms of radiation poisoning occur as ionizing radiation interferes with cell division.