Are you experiencing issues with the skin around your stoma? You’re not alone. In fact, “issues or problems with the skin around the stoma is probably the most common complication for ostomates,” according to the Bladder & Bowel Community.
For those living with an ostomy, skin irritation and infections are a frequent complaint. After all, skin problems can often impair proper adherence to your ostomy pouching system, creating leakage issues and more problems. That’s why maintaining proper hygiene, cleaning the skin well, and using the right ostomy products and skin care products is important to maintaining the health of your stoma and your peristomal skin.
1. What Should Peristomal Skin Look Like?
If you have an ostomy, you know that it’s important to keep an eye on your stoma and make sure it’s staying healthy, moist, and usually pink or red, like the inside of your mouth.
But when it comes to your skin health, sometimes the ideal condition isn’t as easy to pinpoint. The optimal peristomal skin appearance should be similar to the rest of the skin on your abdomen in color and consistency.
Ideally, it should also be smooth, dry, and clean, so your ostomy appliances can better adhere to your skin.
2. How Can I Tell if My Peristomal Skin is Infected?
If your stoma or your peristomal skin looks or feels different, it’s a good idea to address it with a healthcare professional. This way, the issue can be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. Often, it’s just a matter of trying a different product or treating the issue with a topical or oral medication.
Here are some signs of peristomal infection, irritation, or other stoma problems to watch for:
- Discomfort, burning, or an itchy sensation around your stoma
- Frequent issues of leakage under your skin barrier or one-piece ostomy pouching system
- A wound, scratch, or wart-like bumps
- Skin color and condition changes like redness, rashes, and bumpy skin
- Bulging in peristomal skin
- Excessive wetness of the skin around the stoma
- Excessive bleeding of the stoma itself
- Peculiar color changes in the stoma going from a healthy red or dark pink to purple or black
- Pimples or blister-like irritation where you normally place your skin barrier
3. How Can I Prevent Peristomal Irritation or Infection?
Choose the Right Skin Barrier
Your skin barrier needs to fit well and not irritate your skin. 180 Medical’s Ostomy Specialists or a WOCN can help you determine the size of your stoma. Remember that your stoma size and shape may change over the weeks following your ostomy surgery as it heals. In other words, your skin barrier size will change as well.
The most important thing is getting the right skin barrier fit to maintain a good seal. This will help prevent leakage that can irritate your skin and even cause infection if left untreated.
Consider Ostomy Skin Care Accessories
When caring for your ostomy, it’s important to use the right products for your unique needs, body type, and skin type. Whether you need peristomal cleansers, adhesive remover wipes, or barrier wipes, there are plenty of options for managing your peristomal skin. Some skin care accessories can reduce skin irritation from stomal output like stool or urine, while others may work to help your skin barrier better adhere to your skin and avoid leakage.
Because ostomy accessories and peristomal skin care products are not always covered by insurance, check with 180 Medical to verify your ostomy insurance coverage.
Change Your Pouching System On Time
When it comes to changing your ostomy pouching system, follow the directions given by your doctor or WOCN (Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse). Depending on whether you have a colostomy, ileostomy, or urostomy, your ostomy pouching routine may differ. The times per week or day you need to change out your pouch also depends on the amount of output from your stoma.
Keep Your Peristomal Skin Clean
Above all, the best way to prevent infection and irritation is to make sure your skin is staying clean and protected. Maintaining proper hygiene is of the utmost importance of your entire ostomy routine.
Get the full tips for cleaning below in the next section.
4. How Do I Clean the Skin Around My Stoma?
Ideally, you want to follow a series of steps that will keep your peristomal skin clean, dry, and free of residue or harsh chemicals that can be irritating.
In general, these steps may help with your routine.
- Wash your hands well before starting.
- Use warm water from your sink at home along with a clean washcloth. Usually, you don’t need to use soap, although some people prefer to. If you do use soap, make sure it’s a mild brand approved by your doctor. Avoid any soaps with oils, perfumes, and deodorants. These can cause skin irritation or even keep your skin barrier from sticking to your skin properly.
- Optionally, you can try adhesive remover wipes like Sensi-Care Sting-Free Adhesive Remover, which can better remove adhesive residue that may have been left behind by your ostomy appliance. Be sure to avoid baby wipes or other towelettes that aren’t specifically made for peristomal skin cleaning.
- Be especially gentle when you get close to your stoma.
- After cleaning, dry your skin well with a clean towel.
- Avoid baby powder, lotions, oils, and creams that could keep your ostomy system from sticking to your skin.
5. When Should I Seek Medical Help for My Ostomy?
Contact your Ostomy Nurse or prescribing physician if:
- Your stoma is bleeding or changing colors
- You notice any unusual changes in the appearance or feeling of your stoma or the surrounding skin
- You find that food or medication is triggering unusual stoma output
- Your peristomal skin seems rashy, red, or bumpy
- Your peristomal skin is burning or irritated
- You notice a strong odor from your stoma or severe watery discharge
180 Medical’s team of highly trained and friendly Ostomy Specialists are here for all your product needs. However, when it comes to medical issues that need to be properly diagnosed and treated, we recommend you seek help from your Ostomy Nurse or other healthcare professional first.
For more information about ostomy products and accessories, contact 180 Medical today.