Emily Walsh: Veteran’s and Health Literacy pt. 1

Emily Walsh

Our service members are more at risk for certain ailments than their civilian friends and family.   These health risks range from physical issues to mental issues.  As a service member or family member of a service member, it is important to know the health risks associated with being in the military.  Recognizing the early warning signs of these potential health risks and getting to a doctor immediately may make the treatment process easier.  Early detection of many diseases and issues can be the difference between life and death.

During wartime the most common physical injuries to soldiers are those sustained from being out in the field.  The most serious of these health risks being gunshot wounds, lost limbs, and head injuries.   Obviously, these will need to be treated immediately.  Keep in mind that when someone sustains a head injury, symptoms of the injury may not occur until weeks afterwards.  Physical therapy will be needed for most of these issues, but most service members will be able to lead normal lives after sustaining a physical injury.

Another risk of wartime service is health issues that develop as a result of being exposed to hazardous materials.  There are many issues that can develop from being exposed to hazardous materials and the diseases and health risks may take years to manifest and service members may be exposed to chemicals that civilians are rarely exposed to.   For this reason it is important to see a doctor if you are worried about any unexplained health issues you or your loved one is having.  Make sure the doctor is aware that the patient is a veteran, because the knowledge may help the doctor make a proper diagnosis.

One of the most well known health risk service members have developed as a result of being in the military and being exposed to an environmental hazard is mesothelioma.  What is mesothelioma? It is a type of cancer that affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen.   This type of cancer results from exposure to asbestos and is common in veterans who served in Navy Shipyards and can be difficult to diagnosis since symptoms are similar to many other more common health issues.  It is more common in older patients since asbestos has been slowly phased out of use in both the military and civilian life.  There is no cure for mesothelioma but doctors use surgery and chemotherapy to help improve the patients quality of life.

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