What Every Home Caregiver Should Know About Hernias
If you are providing in-home care to an elderly loved one or family member, there are a number of important health concerns that you need to be aware of, just in case they ever occur. One of the most common, and unfortunately most painful health issues that catch many seniors off guard are hernias.
If you aren’t already familiar with hernias, it is about time that you gain a better understanding of what they are and what they can cause if they aren’t treated properly. After all, 1 in 20 people will have a hernia at some point in their lives and they are increasingly common in seniors. With this in mind, here is some basic information that every person should know about hernias so they can make sure their loved one isn’t suffering from this condition.
What is a hernia?
A hernia happens when there is a weakness in the fibrous tissues that hold your organs in place. When this weakness is exploited the tissues can tear and your organs can eventually push through your abdominal wall. Typically hernias happen because of strenuous activity, or some people are born with what are known as congenital hernias. Congenital hernias are birth defects and can be treated with surgery.
What are the different types of hernias?
There are actually different types of hernias, as classified by where in the body they happen. The most common type of hernia is an inguinal hernia. This happens when tissues push into the groin from the lower abdominal wall. Approximately 75% of all hernias are inguinal. There are other types of hernias as well including incisional, epigastric, Spigelian, diaphragmatic, hiatal, umbilical and femoral.
How do I know if my loved one is having a hernia?
Typically, it is very easy to spot a hernia and your senior loved one will tell you that they are in pain. However, they may not know that they are specifically suffering from a hernia. While it can vary from person-to-person, depending on the type and severity of the hernia, typical symptoms include:
- Pain while lifting
- Feeling full without eating much
- Dull aching in the area of the hernia
- A visible bulge at the site of the protrusion or swelling in the area
It is important to remember that the earlier you can treat a hernia the better, as hernias left untreated will only get worse over time.
How are hernias treated?
Unfortunately, the only real treatment for a hernia is typically a surgical repair. This can be a lot for any senior to undergo, but the good news is the surgical procedure is typically minimally invasive and only a small laparoscopic surgery. This procedure is extremely common, especially among older adults, meaning most doctors are well-versed in what it will take in order to easily and effectively treat any hernia that may arise.
Keep this information in mind if your loved one is showing the symptoms of a hernia. In seniors, untreated hernias can lead to extreme pain, discomfort, serious injury and side effects, hospitalization or even death—meaning the more you know about hernias in seniors the better.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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