Learn how to spot peristomal skin irritation and damage.

 

After your ostomy surgery, your healthcare team likely taught you how to care for your peristomal skin and what it should look like when it is healthy. Ideally, it should be intact without irritation, rash, or redness. The skin around your stoma should look just like the skin on the other side of your abdomen, or anywhere else on your body, free of redness, irritation, or damage. Healthy skin should be the rule, not the exception.

However, if your peristomal skin is irritated or damaged, there may be some signs of a peristomal skin complication (PSC), such as:

  1. Discomfort, itching, soreness, or even pain around the stoma
  2. Recurrent leakage under your pouching system or skin barrier
  3. Excessive bleeding of your stoma – it’s normal for your stoma to slightly bleed after you wash it, but the bleeding should resolve quickly
  4. A bulge in the skin around your stoma
  5. Skin color changes from normal pink or red to pale, bluish purple, or black
  6. A rash around the stoma that is red, or red with bumps – this may be due to a skin infection or sensitivity, or even leakage
  7. Wart-like, pimple-like or blister-like bumps under the skin barrier – this type of irritation can happen any time, even if you’ve used the same product for months or years
  8. Any type of wound or scratch on the peristomal skin

Peristomal Skin Complications — Potential causes and what to do

Irritated and damaged peristomal skin can occur for a variety of reasons. It can be caused by anything from a poor-fitting pouching system, to frequent skin barrier changes, to an allergic reaction to anything that contacts the skin, such as soaps or products used to prepare the peristomal skin. Some studies report up to 75 percent of people with an ostomy experience a PSC.* Although it is a common issue, it should not be ignored.

If you experience any signs of a PSC, contact your stoma care nurse. You should work with your healthcare team to determine the exact cause and the appropriate solution.

For more information on maintaining healthy skin and other topics, click here to visit the Hollister Ostomy Learning Center.

 

* Rapp CG, L Richbourg, JM Thorne. Difficulties Experienced by the Ostomate After Hospital Discharge. JWOCN. 2007;34(1):70-79.

The information provided herein is not medical advice and is not intended to substitute for the advice of your personal physician or other healthcare provider. This information should not be used to seek help in a medical emergency. If you experience a medical emergency, seek medical treatment in person immediately.

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Hollister Incorporated. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

You may have questions about your ostomy, how to care for your stoma, and how to keep living the life you want to live – but you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Hollister Secure Start services offer free support for people living with an ostomy, regardless of the brand of products used. Below are five common questions we are asked from people in the ostomy community like you.

I’m having leakage under my pouching system.

To help solve the issue, we would ask several questions including the current pouching system being used, and the frequency of it being changed. Other questions that would assist us in problem solving might be—How are you preparing your skin before putting on your pouch? If the products are not being properly applied, it could cause adherence issues. Are you cleaning out your pouch or do you put anything in it? Most important, where is the leakage occurring? If it’s always in the same area, evaluate the area for any creases or uneven surfaces such as scar tissue, incisions, or your belly button that may cause an uneven surface under the barrier. If this is the cause, you might try a barrier ring as a filler to even out the surface area. However, make sure that the stoma size is correct in the barrier. You’ll know it’s a correct fit when the barrier fits where the skin and the stoma meet. There should be no skin exposed between the stoma and the opening of the barrier.

 

My skin is irritated and weepy.

This can be a problem for many people with an ostomy. A person should not have skin breakdown, open wounds, or a rash under the barrier. Where exactly is the skin breaking down? How long has it been going on? Is there a situation that may have led to this irritation, such as leakage or was your barrier removed too quickly? What product are you using to prepare your skin for the barrier? Try using stoma powder to absorb moisture from broken skin around the stoma, which may help allow the skin barrier to get better adherence. The cause of the skin irritation needs to be addressed in order to find solutions.

 

I am noticing an odor and I’m concerned others will too.

There can be an odor associated with emptying your pouch versus odor caused by leakage and we need to determine which one you are experiencing. A lubricating deodorant is a great choice for neutralizing the odor of the stool when the pouch is emptied. You might also consider a pouch that has a filter, which neutralizes odor caused by gas in the pouch. Make sure that no stool drainage gets on the outside of your closure system. If neither of these situations is the issue your barrier might be starting to lift off the skin, which can allow odor to escape and can be the beginning of a leakage.

 

My pouching system is not staying on. What can I do?

It may be a problem with your barrier seal. Make sure you have one that you can count on. Everybody is different when it comes to wear time. A good rule of thumb is to determine how many days you can rely on the product to provide a secure seal without experiencing leakage. Monitor the back of the barrier when you change the pouching system. If you see stool or urine from the stoma that has leaked under the barrier, it’s a sign that the barrier seal is compromised and the barrier can begin to lose adherence to the skin. If this occurs then the barrier should be changed. It’s important to change your product on a routine basis, which can be determined by the lack of stoma drainage under the barrier as well as the condition of your skin.

 

It is important that my pouching system is discreet. What can you recommend?

When a pouch fills with gas or drainage it will start to balloon out and might show under clothing. A pouch with a filter can help release the gas. Also consider emptying your pouch when it’s a third to a half full. When a pouch is full it could cause weightiness on the barrier, which might lead to leakage. When it comes to discretion, it’s important that you find the right pouching system for your body. Hollister offers both one- and two-piece systems. For a person with a colostomy or ileostomy, there are drainable and closed-end pouches in various lengths and options of transparent, ultra-clear and beige pouch films. Those with a urostomy can also choose from pouches with transparent, ultra-clear or beige film depending on the product they are using.

 

As always, it’s important to follow up with your healthcare professional or Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse for clinical or medical advice.

 

Have a concern that wasn’t mentioned here?

Check out the helpful tips from Hollister Incorporated, Routine Care of Your Ostomy or go to Hollister.com and navigate to the Ostomy Care Resources to find accessory sheets, helpful brochures and videos.

 

Need someone to talk to?

Hollister Secure Start services is here to help! Call us today at 1.888.808.7456.

 

Nothing contained herein should be considered medical advice. Medical advice can only be provided by an individual’s personal doctor or medical professional.

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Hollister Incorporated. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Basic Tips for Changing your Ostomy Appliance

 

By Wendy Lueder

 

If you feel overwhelmed by changing your appliance, please know that your feelings of anxiety will diminish over time. I know it can be difficult at first but it will become more routine with practice. Knowing just what you’re going to do can be helpful so here are some basic guidelines that you may wish to use.

  1. To start, wash your hands!
  2. Set out your equipment within easy reach on your bathroom countertop. You will need: an old bath towel on the floor and Kleenex tissues (without any lotion!) to catch any unwanted output while changing; plastic bags for clean-up; a washcloth if you don’t shower; clean bath towel; pencil and stoma measuring guide; scissors or x-acto knife if you don’t use the new “moldable” skin barrier wafers; a skin barrier wafer; Stomahesive or HolliHesive paste or product such as Eakin Cohesive Seals (preferred by this writer) a new pouch; a tail closure if you use a drainable pouch that doesn’t have the built-in Velcro closure ; hair dryer and finally, a swivel make-up mirror.
  3. Empty your pouch as normal. DO NOT rinse your pouch out when emptying. This only reduces adhesion. If you get this advice, ignore it. Rinsing out pouches is an obsolete suggestion that is totally bothersome and no longer valid for modern ostomy equipment. Empty your pouch while sitting comfortably and normally on the toilet. Put some toilet paper in the bowl first to avoid any splashing. If you use a tail clip, carry an extra one with you in case you accidentally flush yours down the toilet
  4. While holding a corner of the tape that holds your appliance to your body, gently push your skin in toward your body to remove the appliance. Pushing your skin inward is far less harsh on it than if you pull the appliance off and away. Try it and feel the difference. You only need to use an adhesive remover if: A) you have worn the skin barrier wafer a very short time and the adhesion is still very strong and/or B) your skin is irritated or tender and can be easily damaged. I personally prefer the spray adhesive removers as they leave less residue. However, I only use them if I have worn the barrier for less than two days between changes.
  5. Put the old pouch, wafer and other waste (not the tail clip!) into a plastic bag for disposal. Sealable sandwich bags work great. My favorite product is Ostaway x-bag which is a black, opaque, leak-proof, odor-proof zip-lock bag made just for this purpose. See www.bagitaway.com or call 1-800-774-6097 (Mon-Fri 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern).
  6. Clean the skin around the stoma with a washcloth and warm water or by getting into the shower and using your hands. Be gentle. Do not use scented or cream soaps as they will diminish adhesion of your skin barrier. Any waste coming out of the stoma will merely wash down the drain.
  7. Pat your skin dry with Kleenex and for best results use a hair-dryer on low setting to complete the job. The cleaner and dryer your skin is the better your skin barrier will adhere.

Measure your stoma with a measuring guide (usually supplied in the box with your skin barrier wafers) using the make-up mirror placed on the countertop to get a better look. This is especially important if your surgery is recent as your stoma will become smaller over a period of months.

For all Skin Barriers except StomaHesive Wafers measure right up next to the stoma. For StomaHesive Wafers add an eighth of an inch space between the stoma and the wafer hole. Only this brand of wafer is “stiff” and could damage your stoma if it is too close. All other types of skin barrier wafers are more flexible and won’t damage the stoma if placed right up next to it. If your stoma is oval take two measurements, one each of the larger and smaller diameters.

  1. Trace the correct size and shape onto the back of the wafer with the starter hole in the middle. Cut out the hole either with your scissors or more easily by using an x-acto knife.

There are new moldable skin barrier wafers that you do not need to cut but merely manipulate to create the correct size opening. This is especially helpful if your stoma is oval and is highly recommended by this writer. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to create the perfect size opening for your unique stoma.

  1. If you use paste, peel the paper from the wafer and apply the paste only by the width of the tubes opening around the cut circle in the wafer. Allow alcohol to evaporate for approximately thirty seconds. Unfortunately paste is poorly named. Paste is really merely caulking and has no adhesive property.

If greater protection is needed than paste can afford (such as for ileostomates who have a caustic output), try using an Eakin Cohesive Seal or similar product instead of paste. these seals have the consistency of silly putty, and lasts far longer and will not wash away from heavy output.

Small dabs of paste or small pieces of Eakin Seals are great to fill any dimples in your skin that you may have. The flatter the surface of your skin around the stoma, the better the seal. Do fill in those dimples if you have them.

  1. While leaning slightly backwards to smooth out your skin, remove paper backing from the skin barrier and apply it slowly and carefully over the stoma. Use the magnifying side of your mirror to see that you are correctly setting it in place. Remove the paper backing from the surrounding tape and smooth it out on your skin being careful not to create any wrinkles as they may latter dig into your skin.
  2. If you use a two-piece system, snap the new pouch onto the wafer. Never tug down on the appliance to see if it is secure. Instead, feel with your finger all around the “Tupperware” closure to make sure the pouch and wafer are as close to each other as can be. If you detect any space, push the pouch toward your body until you feel it close the gap. You may hear a series of clicks as you apply the pouch.
  3. If you use a tail clip, apply now. Hold your appliance in place with your hand for a full five minutes to ensure a secure seal. All skin adhesives are more effective if held in place after first application as the heat from your hand improves adhesion. If your stoma is flush to your skin, use a skin barrier wafer with built-in convexity. The convexity will gently push the skin toward your body around the stoma giving it some extra length. When the stoma thus protrudes a bit more, its output goes more easily into the pouch. The new adhesives and skin barrier wafers stay put well for days.

Some bleeding is normal when touching your stoma, but report any unusual color, size, shape, or bleeding to your Ostomy nurse. Try different products. Call your Ostomy nurse or ostomy supply companies and ask for free samples. You may have to shop around to find products that leave you feeling comfortable and secure. You should be no more aware of your appliance than you are of your underwear. Always follow any special instructions provided by your health care professional as they know your specific situation better than any general guidelines an article such as this could provide

If your abdomen is very hairy, you may want to gently shave off the hair under your skin barrier wafer. Be careful not to cut or damage your skin.

These suggestions are gleaned from years of helping ostomates cope and are just that, suggestions. They come from over thirty-five years of experience, but are in fact just the input from a layperson. I’m not a nurse, I’m an ostomate. Your healthcare professionals always know best and you need to follow their advice, not mine.
Bottom line: Your appliance should be comfortable, stay on for at least a few days between changes, odor-free (not odor resistant) and leak extremely rarely. If not, go see an ostomy nurse and change your routine until you find the products that work well for you. Best of all, studies done at Duke University verify that the longer you’ve been an ostomate, the better it gets. Problems do diminish with time and experience. You should be able to forget you’re an ostomate and get on with doing the things you really enjoy. There’s no stopping you.

Additional Tips for ileostomates only:

Try changing first thing in the morning when output is at its slowest. Many ileostomates report that eating four to five marshmallows right before changing stops all output from the stoma for several minutes. I personally have found this to be true. As marshmallows are pure sugar, please don’t try this if you’re a diabetic.
As the output for ileostomies is far more caustic than for colostomates and urostomates, don’t put off changing your appliance when needed. There are two indications you need to change, one is “itching” and the other is a “burning” sensation. If you itch, it may be merely dehydration. Drink a glass of water. If the itching continues, you need to change. If you feel a burning sensation on the skin around the stoma, change as soon as possible. The output from your ileostomy is caustic and will damage your skin. Avoid the vicious cycle of damaged skin -> poor adhesion due to damaged skin -> leakage -> damaged skin.