|MadSci Network: Medicine|
Jesse-There is no actual chemical that makes veins "glow". What the chemical or substance is-is called radiopaque agents which are used in x-ray studies to visualize various organs or blood vessels in the body. Radiopaque or contrast agents are iodine based, and the degree of density of the material is believe it or not based on the percentage of iodine in the chemical-this is because of iodine's relatively high molecular weight. As with any medicine there can be some side-effects or allergic reactions. If a person is going to have an x-ray dye study with one of these contrast agents, we are very careful if they have a history of allergy to iodine. Also, we want them to be well hydrated and to know that their kidneys are working well(usually, we need a blood test to check kidney function prior to doing one of these studies). There can be mild side effects like skin rashes, upset stomach, nausea, vomitting, dizziness, and heartburn (these are also possible with any medicine). And occasionally, some can have a very severe side effect with problems with breathing etc. The dye studies are used frequently and are very valuable in X-rays, CT, MRI for almost any organ or blood vessel system .
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