In this section you can find helpful information and advice on looking after your stoma including skincare, travel, irrigation, surgery and the different types of stoma.
With 160,000 people in the UK living with a stoma, you’re not alone. Many ostomates find a toilet card useful to aid clear and efficient communication when you need to use a toilet urgently – apply for your FREE Just Can’t Wait Card.
Our Bladder & Bowel Home Delivery Service can also offer you expert advice from a trained nurse about stoma care and help you find the right products to manage your condition. For more information on ostomies and stoma care products call our Home Delivery Team on 0800 031 5406.
Below you can read about our recommendations on ‘stoma care’, including stoma assessment and stoma cleaning:
What is a stoma?
A stoma is an opening on the abdomen, where a small portion of your intestine will have been brought to the surface of your belly and sewn in place. This type of operation normally happens if you’ve had an injury or disease in the bowel and allows your body to expel faeces in a different way. A bag is then worn over the stoma to collect any waste.
There are three more common types of stoma
Colostomy – where a portion of your large bowel (colon) is used to create a stoma.
Ileostomy – where a portion of the ileum (small bowel) is used to create a stoma
Urostomy – where a portion of the ileum is taken and connected to the ureters to bypass the bladder and create an urinary diversion. This is also known as an ileal conduit.
Caring for your stoma
Whilst you are in hospital, your stoma nurse will show you the correct way to care for your stoma, change your bag and order new supplies. Once you are out of hospital you will be able to order your stoma supplies through the Bladder and Bowel Community Home Delivery Service.
In general, if you have a colostomy you will change your closed bag one to two times a day and if you have an ileostomy or a urostomy, you will need to empty your bag several times a day and change your bag every three to five days depending on the wear.
Stoma appearance straight after surgery
After surgery your stoma will be swollen and will likely have stitches around it. Over the next eight weeks or so, your stoma will reduce and settle into its new size. Occasionally, you may find that your stitches pull and can be uncomfortable. If this happens, inform your stoma nurse so that can assess them. If you find that your stoma remains swollen or shows signs of infection, then contact your stoma nurse or colorectal surgeon straight away.
Normal Stoma Appearance
Through regularly checking your stoma, you will come to know how it normally looks meaning you can spot issues early on. A healthy stoma will be pink or red in colour, moist and slightly shiny.
Your stoma can change shape or size over time. This can mean that your bag no longer fits properly and your skin could be exposed to the contents of the stoma bag. To avoid this issue from arising, every few months you should check the size of your stoma. A cardboard measuring guide is normally included with your stoma bags and can be used to check the size of your stoma. If you need help, speak to your stoma nurse and then can show you how to do this and, if necessary, offer some advice on products that fit better.
Cleaning and changing your stoma bag
When changing your stoma bag, it is a good idea to assess your stoma and the surrounding peristomal skin to check it’s in good shape. Things to check are
- Is the hole of my baseplate the right size for me? If faeces come into contact with the skin it can cause soreness and irritation of the skin.
- Is there any redness, irritation, cuts or broken skin. If you do have any of these things then your stoma nurse can recommend products to help with this.
- Does my stoma look healthy? Does anything look unusual or different to you. If there is anything unusual then contact your stoma nurse for advice.
How to clean a stoma site
When cleaning a stoma site, it is important to use recommended products. The easiest way to clean your stoma site is to gently wash it with warm water using the dry wipes provided and then pat dry thoroughly using a clean dry wipe. Avoid using paper towels as these can get stuck to the stoma, always use dry cotton wipes. It’s important to remember not to rub the stoma as this may cause it to become damaged.
The following articles may be helpful towards your stoma care journey: