THERE’S no topic too embarrassing for you to discuss with your GP. Honestly, we’ve seen, heard and examined it all!
There’s nothing you can truly surprise us with.
Dr Zoe Williams answers some common questions sent in by readers
That’s why there is no need to put off getting something you’re worried about checked out.
It’s what we’re here for, so whether it’s a bowel issue, a funny lump or something that just doesn’t feel right, don’t be shy!
Here’s what readers asked me this week.
Q) OUR 31-year-old son has recently found blood in his stools.
He has had a sample done and doctors have told him it could be several things. One being Crohn’s disease, as he also gets bloated from certain foods and gets very tired.
He had a letter to book an appointment at the hospital for a camera investigation.
However, he has been told there is a 78-week wait just for an appointment.
We are at our wits’ end with trying to get one earlier. Any advice on what else we can do?
A) UNDERSTANDABLY you must be feeling anxious. Seventy-eight weeks does sound like a really long time
When referrals are sent to hospital specialists they are usually triaged by a trained nurse or doctor.
They can prioritise who needs to be seen most urgently and then appointments are offered accordingly.
But one silver lining of a long wait time is that the clinician who triaged your son’s case is not overly concerned.
Some reassurance can sometimes be taken from this outcome. If your son has been waiting for more than 18 weeks and is willing to travel further afield in order to be seen sooner, then you are entitled to be seen at a different NHS trust. Find out more about this at healthcompare.co.uk.
Things can change while you’re waiting and if this happens with your son, particularly if there are new symptoms or there is increasing severity, it’s important he updates his GP right away.
If necessary, a GP can add this additional information to the referral and it can be triaged again, and sometimes that results in appointments being brought forwards.
It’s really great your son checked his stool and went to his GP though. It’s important that we all get into the habit of looking at our poo. By noting things like the presence of blood or any other persistent changes, you could spot symptoms before things get too severe.
For those who do spot blood, your GP may ask whether it’s mixed in with the stool or just coating it, or on the tissue when wiping, as this can give clues as to what the cause may be.
If it’s on the outside or on wiping, then bleeding is more likely to be close to the anus, and a common cause of this is piles also known as haemorrhoids, or an anal fissure.
Blood mixed in with the stool is more likely to be coming from deeper inside the bowels and sometimes blood can be partly digested, if coming from as high as the stomach for example, and can appear black, sticky and tarry — we call this melaena.
It’s important to remember to not self-diagnose as this is just one factor in assessing what the cause could be and serious conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, bowel cancer and stomach ulcers must all be considered.
An abdominal examination is usually required, and sometimes a rectal exam too. Blood tests are particularly useful and camera tests that look at the inner lining of the bowel are the best way of making a definite diagnosis, though there are other imaging methods too.
Q) I WAS reading an article in Sun Health on dementia and I think I might have it. I keep repeating myself, have mood swings, I’m not sleeping properly and I’m forgetful.
Is there anything I can do to stop it getting worse? I’m 59.
A) YES, there is and it’s important to see your GP about this as soon as possible. While there is no cure yet for dementia, there are treatments that can slow down the progression.
The earlier the diagnosis, the more effective they are. Also there are many other things that could be causing your symptoms, so your GP will most likely want to do a range of tests to cover all bases.
While it’s by no means certain you’ve got dementia — and it’s not wise to self-diagnose — please don’t delay in making that appointment!
Sometimes when there are memory problems it’s helpful for the GP to also speak to somebody that’s close to you, to see what changes they have noticed.
It feels like I will pass out
Q) I NEED help with anxiety and feeling lightheaded. Every day it feels like I’m going to pass out.
A) Physical and emotional symptoms can be caused by anxiety, and feeling lightheaded, like you’ll faint, is a real physical symptom.
Others include feeling sick, shaking, sweating, very dry mouth, fast heart rate and headaches. Being anxious releases stress hormones such as adrenaline, which gives you these symptoms.
There are non-medication treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling. Antidepressants can also be helpful.
One of the most powerful ways to treat anxiety is with self-help strategies. Exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety as effectively as medication. Start by walking every day or build up to running with the NHS Couch To 5k app.
There are apps like Calm and Headspace and plenty of relaxation techniques online. In studies, breathing techniques have been found to help. Keep a diary to note which situations trigger feelings of lightheadedness more.
If you identify where they are happening the most, you can start to put a framework around yourself. If work meetings make you nervous, explain to your line manager how you are feeling and see if there’s a way your anxiety can be accommodated.
Speaking up about it gives you some power because it no longer becomes the thing you’re hiding or afraid of exposing. Good luck and let me know how you get on.