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.
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.
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.
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.