My son discovered blood in his poo. The wait for an appointment is absurd. Please help.

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


Dr Zoe Williams answers common questions from 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) Q: Our 31-year old son found blood in his stool recently.

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Doctors have done a sample and he has been told that there could be multiple causes. One being Crohn’s disease, as he also gets bloated from certain foods and gets very tired.

He was asked to send a note to the hospital asking for an appointment for a camera inspection.

He was told that there is a 78-week waiting period for appointments.

We are at our wits’ end with trying to get one earlier. Do you have any suggestions?

A) UNDERSTANDABLY, you should feel anxious. Sicy-eight weeks sounds like a very long time.

When referrals are sent to hospital ­specialists they are usually triaged by a trained nurse or doctor.

They will prioritize the most urgent patients and arrange appointments accordingly.

As hospitals continue to recover from the pandemic knock-on effects, the waiting times can be quite long.

But one silver lining of a long wait time is that the clinician who triaged your son’s case is not overly concerned.

Sometimes, this outcome can be a source of comfort. If your son has been in waiting for over 18 weeks and is willing travel further to be seen sooner, he may be eligible to be seen at another NHS Trust. Learn more about this.

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 needed, a GP may add this information to the referral. It can then be triaged again and sometimes, appointments are brought forward.

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. You can spot signs before they become severe by noting the presence of blood and other persistent changes.

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.

A rectal examination and abdominal examination are often required. Although blood tests and camera tests to examine the inner lining are most useful, they are not the only way to diagnose.

Q. I read an article in Sun Health about dementia. I keep repeating myself, have mood swings, I’m not sleeping properly and I’m forgetful.

What can I do to stop it from getting worse? I’m 59.

A) YES, there is and it’s important to see your GP about this as soon as possible. There are some treatments that can slow down dementia’s progression, but there is no cure.

The more early the diagnosis is, the better they will be. You may also have other conditions that could be causing your symptoms. Therefore, your doctor will probably order multiple tests to ensure you are fully covered.

There are also other causes, such as infections, thyroid problems and circulatory issues, vitamin deficiencies or sleep apnoea.

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 as though I’ll pass out.

Q) I NEED help for anxiety and lightheadedness. 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.

Some of these symptoms include shaking, feeling sick, sweating, dry mouth, rapid heart rate, headaches, and very fast heart beat. These symptoms are caused by stress hormones like adrenaline.

Non-medication therapies include counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy. It is also possible to take antidepressants.

Self-help strategies are one way to reduce anxiety. Anxiety can be reduced by exercise as well as medications. Begin by running every day, or walking for a few minutes each day with the NHS Couch to 5k app.

Calm, Headspace and many other relaxation apps can be found online. Studies have shown that breathing techniques can help. You can keep a journal to record which situations cause lightheadedness.

You can begin to create a framework for yourself by identifying the areas where they occur most. 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. Let me know what you do.

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