Adjusting to life after an ostomy surgery may seem daunting and nerve-racking. Maintaining a healthy stoma is crucial to avoiding potentially serious health issues down the road. Whether it’s an ileostomy or colostomy, the focal point of your hygiene and cleaning routine should be your stoma and the surrounding area. Understanding what potential issues may arise can help you be proactive and maintain a healthy stoma and avoid ostomy complications. Of course, the earlier you address any ostomy or stoma problem, the easier the solution can be. Some of these complications include:
Stoma Complications You May Experience
After your ostomy operation, the adjustment to living with a colostomy or ileostomy will obviously take a little time. Along the way you may experience or develop some problems that need to be addressed. These can include, but are not limited to:
Irritated Skin: The most important way you can avoid stoma problems is with good skin care. You should get into the habit of checking your stoma and surrounding skin regularly. Skin problems can be developed due to changing your device to frequently, seepage of fecal matter, or even inflamed hair follicles. You should work with your doctor or nurse to develop a skincare routine to minimize potential issues.
Ostomy Bag Fit: After your surgery your abdomen area may change shape. This is particularly common if you should lose weight or gain weight. This can lead to sore skin or even bruises from your ostomy device, both of which you want to avoid.
Output Change: If you should experience loose stools it may be advisable to use a pouch that is drainable to minimize device changes which could irritate your skin.
Product Reactions: Sometimes your skin can become irritated or even develop an allergy to the pieces or adhesives your ostomy devices may use. This can develop over time even if you use the same type of ostomy device. This can start with minor irritation, but can develop into a major problem down the road if left untreated.
Ballooning: When your ostomy bag becomes filled with gas from your intestines due to food intake, your ostomy device can become separated from your skin. This can be caused by spicy foods or vegetables such as broccoli, onions, or cabbage which produce more gas in the intestines. Some ostomy devices incorporate a filter to allow this gas to escape.
Odors: Yes, fecal matter smells. The problem for those with an ostomy device is that they cannot control when their body expels the waste. This can lead to embarrassing orders at inappropriate times. You should avoid foods such as baked beans, eggs, or cabbage to minimize odor.
Bleeding: Mild bleeding around the stoma site is relatively common after the surgery, but significant or prolonged bleeding may indicate a problem and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
Ischaemia & necrosis: This refers to the death of the stoma tissue, which can be caused by inadequate blood supply. It may appear discolored, black, or dark purple. Immediate medical attention is necessary if stoma necrosis is suspected.
Retraction: Sometimes, the stoma may sink below the level of the skin, making it difficult to properly attach the ostomy appliance. This can result in leakage and skin irritation around the stoma.
Obstruction: A blockage in the stoma, usually caused by food or stool, can lead to abdominal pain, bloating, and a lack of output from the stoma. Seeking medical attention is crucial if a stoma obstruction is suspected.
Identifying potential problems is only part of the equation of avoiding ostomy issues. Knowing which solutions can help with your specific problem is critically important. These ostomy complications can be combated with:
Nutrition: Did you know the food you eat can negatively affect your stoma and ostomy device? Well it can, by producing higher levels of gas in your intestines during digestion. Foods such as cabbage, broccoli, onions, or even mushrooms can produce gas that can actually inflate your ostomy device and separated from your skin. Obviously this can irritate your stoma or the skin surrounding it. You should be sure to eat foods that produce less gas and minimize this potential problem. You can check with your doctor or a nutritionist for a list of foods that produce less gas.
Proper Ostomy Pouch: It may take some trial and error, but finding the correct ostomy system to fit your stoma and lifestyle can go a long way to heading off potential issues. You may opt for a one-piece ostomy system that has the adhesive ring incorporated into the bag or a two-piece ostomy system which has a separate adhesive wafer that connects to your bag. You can also opt for a drainage pouch which allows you to empty the pouch without replacing it. This could be beneficial if you develop loose stool.
Skin Barriers: By using the proper skin barrier (the part of the ostomy system that adheres to your skin), you can help minimize irritation of the stoma and surrounding skin. These are available in a variety of sizes to accommodate a wide range of stoma sizes. Some come in precut sizes, while some allow you to cut the diameter of the stoma opening by yourself. By utilizing the skin barrier with the appropriate size opening, you can minimize the irritation to peristomal skin.
Adhesives and Removers: Many ostomy patients may opt for applying a medical adhesive in order to secure their ostomy pouch and system. These can be brushed directly onto the surfaces being bonded and offer a gentle yet strong bond between the skin and your appliance. This can eliminate the need for cutting or using a precut skin barrier to adhere your ostomy appliance. In order to clean up these adhesives there are specific adhesive removers that can gently remove these adhesives from your skin without irritating peristomal skin.
Support Garments/Belts: These ostomy designed garments are specifically made to hold your ostomy device in place more securely. Yes, your ostomy device will use some form of adhesive to hold it in place around your stoma, but this added level of security means there is less chance of your device shifting, therefore minimizing the risk of stoma irritation. Ostomy belts are great for those with an active lifestyle to give added security and make sure your ostomy device adheres properly. These can give the user peace of mind and allow them to regain their independence.
By being diligent in your ostomy routine or program can head off potential stoma problems that lead to ostomy complications. It is much easier to be proactive than reactive to any potential problem to keep your stoma healthy. You should contact your doctor immediately if you suspect a potential problem with your stoma.
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Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.
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