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Many people with an ostomy find that once their stoma has settled and they are in a normal routine, they are able to live their life with few ostomy related issues. However, as you are adjusting to life with a stoma, you may experience some problems that are quite common. We have put together a list of some common ostomy related problems and solutions so you can be well prepared if and when they occur.

Many ostomates continue to live with stoma issues and problems unaware that there are solutions available to them. Learning how to care for your stoma and understanding these common problems will help you to find normalcy and routine after your surgery. Access to this information will help you to take charge of your life and increase your confidence.

Before we get into the common problems and solutions, it might be helpful to mention proper cleaning and application. With proper care of your stoma and the skin around your stoma you may reduce the risk of the below problems. Proper care begins with proper application. Make sure your barrier hole fits tightly around your stoma, and that the skin is clean and dry for application. When removing your barrier, it is important to lift it gently off of your skin while using your other hand to press down on your skin. Ripping the adhesive off quickly can cause redness and irritation that can lead to other problems. To clean your stoma and the area around it, use a soft cloth or towel and warm water. Be gentle when cleaning, as aggressive rubbing or wiping can irritate the skin. It is not necessary to use soap, as soaps can leave residue and irritate the skin. When changing your pouching system, it can be helpful to use a small hand-held mirror to see all around it. If there is leakage, use the mirror to check all areas of your barrier and stoma for gaps and creases. Once you’ve identified the problem area, it will be easier to address.

Leakage

Two of the main factors of leakage problems are: how you prepare your skin before you apply your barrier, and your barrier size. You should make sure to clean and dry your skin completely before applying a new pouching system. If you are having trouble getting the area dry, an absorbing powder might be a good solution for you. If your pouch gets too heavy and tends to pull away from your skin, or if your barrier does not fit correctly, a protective seal between your stoma and the barrier can prevent leakage and seal the pouching system.

Skin Problems

The skin that surrounds your stoma is called peristomal skin­—it should be smooth and healthy and look like the rest of your skin. If it is red or irritated, you should address the problem immediately. If you have problems with adhesive residue or are unable to get the area completely clean before application, you may want to try to use an adhesive remover.

Odor

New sound and smells coming from your pouching system can be embarrassing and induce anxiety. Many new pouching systems have filters to neutralize the odors caused by gasses in your pouch. What you eat can have an effect on gasses you produce. It is recommended to avoid carbonated beverages and limit high-fiber foods. If the filter in your pouch gets blocked, you may experience ballooning. Ballooning happens when air from your stoma cannot escape the bag and it fills up like a balloon. Depending on the type of system you are using, you may want to release air from it throughout the day. If the odor is strong when you are changing your pouch, you may want to try a lubricating deodorant which can help mask, the smells during a pouch change. Simply place 6-10 drops into the pouch when you change and empty it and spread it around inside the pouch by rubbing the inner sides together, avoiding the filter. This helps the output to make its way more easily to the bottom of the pouch.

Should you need more assistance dealing with a problem you are having with your ostomy, consult your healthcare professional. For more assistance and personalized support, check out Coloplast® Care, which is an ongoing comprehensive support program that gives people with an ostomy support throughout their life.

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, Coloplast. 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.