Living with a stoma

Here you'll find information about life with a stoma 3+ months after surgery, as you become more experienced. Read guidance on how to keep your skin around the stoma healthy, as well as useful online tools for ensuring you still have the right product and troubleshooting any problems you might be having.

Taking care of your stoma

Keeping the skin around your stoma healthy

Keeping the skin around your stoma healthy

Taking care of your stoma and the skin around it will ensure that your stoma pouch can work optimally. This will help you feel secure and confident in any situation. How to keep your skin and stoma healthy

Keeping the skin around your stoma healthy

Most people living with a stoma experience irritated skin now and again. However, irritated skin is not a ‘normal’ skin condition. For your stoma pouch to be comfortable and worry-free, it’s important to prevent skin irritation and maintain healthy skin in the area.


The cycle of irritation

Leakage leads to contact between output from the stoma and the skin, which causes irritation. The problem is that once your skin becomes irritated, the adhesive on your pouch won’t attach properly, leading to more leaking of output. A vicious cycle of leakage and skin irritation can develop.

Six steps to healthy skin around your stoma:

  1. Make sure your skin is clean and completely dry before applying the adhesive part of the pouch
  2. Adjust the hole in the adhesive so that it fits exactly the diameter of your stoma. After surgery it’s normal that you body shape will change. It’s important that you keep checking to see if your template is the right size and shape for your stoma. Check this by positioning your cutting template over your stoma to see if the hole fits perfectly.
  3. Regularly check the size of the stoma, especially if you have a hernia
  4. Ensure full contact between the adhesive and your skin by exerting light pressure with your hand
  5. Change your appliance as soon as you feel any itching or discomfort
  6. Make sure to use the stoma appliance and accessories most appropriate for your body profile

>Find the right accessories to take care of your skin and reduce leakage

Getting the best fit for your body

Getting the best fit for your body

Every body is different, and your body changes over time. A stoma operation is a big change, so read more about how to get the right stoma appliance to fit your body now. Finding the right product

Getting the best fit for your body

In the months and years following your operation, you may notice certain changes to your body. These changes can include: 

  • Weight gain or loss as you recover from the illness that caused the operation
  • Fold or scarring of the skin around your stoma
  • Hernia development connected to your stoma

As these changes occur, it’s important that you make sure your stoma pouch continues to provide the right fit.

A tight seal between the pouch and your skin is essential to good stoma care. If, for example, the area around your stoma changes from being regular to being more inwards, it may be time to switch to a convex pouch. You may also need to use additional accessories.

It’s a good idea to consult with your stoma care nurse about pouch fit and accessories.

Coping with pouch issues, ballooning and pancaking

Coping with pouch issues, ballooning and pancaking

Ballooning and pancaking are tricky issues that can occur when using a stoma pouch. But there are things you can do to prevent them from happening. Read more here about these issues and how to deal with them. Read more

Coping with pouch issues, ballooning and pancaking

Ballooning happens when there’s a build-up of gas in the stoma pouch, making it inflate like a balloon. Pouches have charcoal filters that help deal with wind by deodorizing and releasing it from the pouch. But if the filter capacity cannot handle the gas produced, or if it has become moist or blocked by solid output from the stoma, gas build-up can occur.

What can you do to prevent ballooning?
One of the main ways to prevent ballooning is to minimise the amount of gas your digestive system produces. Chewing food thoroughly really helps, as can avoiding food and drinks that you know make you produce a lot of gas. These could be nuts, beans, fizzy drinks or sparkling wine.

If ballooning does occur, you can release the gas from the pouch in the privacy of a toilet, if you use an open bag or use a two-piece system. Changing the pouch when needed can also help prevent ballooning. Finally, it may be worth trying another type of stoma pouch and filter type.

Pancaking happens when there is a vacuum in the stoma bag and the bag sticks together. This stops the output from dropping to the bottom of the bag and can block the filter. There is then a risk that the pouch will be pushed off the abdomen.

What can you do to prevent pancaking?
Blowing air into the pouch before putting it on will help stop a vacuum from occurring. In addition, a drop of oil or lubricant in the pouch will help the output to get to the bottom of the bag.

Skin irritation around my stoma

Skin irritation around my stoma

Skin irritation around your stoma is usually caused by leakage of output getting underneath the adhesive of your stoma pouch. It is uncomfortable and can stop your pouch from working well. Read more about what to do if this happens. The skin around your stoma

Skin irritation around my stoma

The skin around your stoma should look similar to the skin on the rest of your body. Immediately after you take off the adhesive, it may be a little pink, but if this doesn’t fade or if the skin is broken or damaged, your skin may be irritated.

What should I do? 

  • Remove the adhesive and check the back. Is there any sign of faeces or urine that could have caused the irritation?
  • Is there any irritation or damage around your stoma that corresponds to what you see on the adhesive?
  • How well does your pouch fit around your stoma? Is your skin exposed to the output from the stoma due to poor fitting? Assess the diameter and shape of your stoma to see if your template has the right size and shape. Use the release liner from the pouch as a guide and if needed, adjust the hole in the adhesive so that it exactly fits the diameter and shape.
  • What is the position of the stoma opening in relation to the surface of your skin? Is it above the skin surface, level with the skin surface or below the skin surface? If the stoma is level with or below the skin surface, or if it is situated in a deep fold, you may need a different type of pouch or accessories for your body profile. Try the Coloplast BodyCheck tool to check fit.
  • Has the adhesive eroded? If so, the pouch may have needed to be changed earlier. Try more frequent changes or consider an erosion-resistant adhesive if you’re not already using one.

If your skin irritation is caused by other reasons, consult your stoma care nurse or doctor.


You're the expert

Being part of an active community is a great way of staying in touch, sharing ideas and supporting others living with an ostomy. It's also somewhere we at Coloplast are participating more and more. We are actively participating on social media and regularly take part in patient association days, where you can meet us face to face. To access our social media links, please click on the icons below and follow. We look forward to hearing your views!

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Colostomy irrigation

Some people* with a colostomy may wish to irrigate their stoma. Watch the video below to learn more about colostomy irrigation.

*Please note that not everyone is suitable for irrigation. Please discuss this with your stoma nurse or healthcare professional, or reach out to the Colostomy Association for more advice on irrigation
Irrigation of a colostomy

Irrigation of a colostomy

Learn about irrigation of a colostomy.

Watch video

Irrigation of a colostomy

What is irrigation?

Irrigation is a water enema. To irrigate requires the stool to be comparatively firm. Therefore only people with a colostomy whose ostomy is placed in the descending section of the colon (descendens or sigmoideum) can use this method.

Can I just perform an irrigation if I want to?

Irrigation should not be learned on ones own but supervised by a competent professional. Training can occur no sooner than 10 days after surgery. Irrigation should be scheduled as a regular routine every 48 hours, and is therefore not a procedure to be performed occasionally. Occasional irrigation will result in a risk of diarrhoea – this is also the case if irrigation is used as an enema in constipation.

How long does it take?

To irrigate takes three quarters of an hour up to an hour, which makes it appropriate to place the irrigation at a time that considers other family members. 

What are the pros and cons of irrigation?

The advantages with irrigation can be:

  • That you regain some control over the emptying of the bowel
  • It is possible to use a smaller form of bandage, i.e. a cap or Minicab, which reduces the risk of skin irritation, and has fewer sound and odour problems when passing wind, which in turn increases comfort, and has fewer psychosocial issues attached to it.
  • Vision, learning ability, motor skills, and diseases of the intestine can be cause the need for irrigation

The disadvantages of irrigation are:

  • The procedure is rather time consuming 45-60 minutes
  • It requires access to a toilet
  • You have to do it every time – you cannot just decide to do it occasionally as this can lead to diarrhea. 
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