Caring properly for the skin around your stoma can help you avoid discomfort and stay active after your ileostomy or colostomy.
An ileostomy or colostomy can help cure serious intestinal conditions like colon cancer and ulcerative colitis. At the same time, if you undergo either one of these procedures, you must adapt to a new way of life — and that means caring for your stoma and the skin around it.
An ileostomy removes a portion of the small intestine, while a colostomy removes a section of the large intestine, or colon. During these procedures, a surgeon creates an opening on the abdominal wall through which fecal waste drains. This is called the stoma.
A healthy stoma has a deep red or pink color, and the skin surrounding it should look like normal skin. When the stoma and the skin around it are in good condition, wearing the pouching system should be comfortable. But if the skin becomes irritated, it can cause pain and inflammation. Therefore, caring for the skin around your stoma is an important aspect of living with an ostomy.
The skin around the stoma is known as peristomal skin. When inflamed, peristomal skin feels itchy under the pouching system and may blister. You can avoid those uncomfortable symptoms with the following four tips:
1. Get the Right Sized Pouching System. A pouching system consists of a skin barrier, or wafer, that contains an opening for the stoma. Attached to the wafer is the pouch into which the stool empties. An ill-fitting pouching system that doesn’t match the size of the stoma or adhere properly allows fecal waste to leak onto the skin, causing irritation. Following your surgery, your ostomy nurse will help you find the right product to fit your stoma.
2. Check Your Skin When Changing the Pouch. The time to examine your peristomal skin is when you change the pouch device, which should be done every three to five days. That’s when you can see if the skin has turned red or if there is any discharge. Fortunately, if you notice signs of irritation, you can treat the skin with products designed specifically for stoma care.
3. Use Products Designed to Protect Peristomal Skin. After removing your pouch system, make sure the skin is free of any spots of old adhesive left by the wafer because a new wafer may not attach snugly if there is leftover adhesive. A skin prep wipe specially made to clear away adhesives keeps the peristomal skin clean and dry for the next wafer. At this point, you can apply stoma powder. To ensure a secure seal and better healing, smooth the skin prep square over the powder. Be sure to purchase powder and skin prep wipes specially designed for stoma care. Baby powder and regular skin preps are not made for the care of peristomal skin, and could cause irritation or prevent the wafer from adhering to the skin.
4. Contact Your Medical Team. If the irritation doesn’t diminish or worsens, contact your doctor or stoma nurse. It could be an indication of a serious issue that requires treatment.
The Center for Ileostomy Surgery has helped hundreds of patients live active and fulfilling lives after an ileostomy or colostomy. Our knowledgeable and compassionate staff works with each patient so they understand what to expect after the operation and how to care for their stoma. Contact us today to set up an appointment.