Symptoms of ostomy leakage

How to spot leakage and how it is different from mechanical irritation and other complications.

If you experience skin problems or complications, you should always consult your stoma care nurse straight away. However, spotting evidence of leakage early can help you catch a potential skin problem even before it develops.

Start by looking for any stoma output, either on your skin or on the back of the adhesive plate. Even if there is no direct visual sign of leakage, be aware of anything unusual, such as if the adhesive plate looks 'melted' (because the adhesive has reacted with the output).

Signs of mechanical irritation

If your skin is red, sore and moist, maybe even bleeding a little, but you have not had any leakage, the issue could be 'mechanical'. That means your skin is simply being irritated from removing the pouch too often, too vigorously, or from cleaning or scrubbing the skin to roughly.

To avoid mechanical irritation, try to be as gentle as possible, both when removing your adhesive baseplate and when cleaning the skin. Try to peel the plate off slowly, rather than ripping or tearing off. Using the other hand to hold the skin tight can help reduce stress on the skin. Adhesive removers may also help when removing the appliance.

These six steps will help you keep your skin healthy:

  1. Make sure your skin is clean and completely dry before applying the adhesive

  2. Adjust the hole in the adhesive so that it exactly fits around your stoma

  3. Make sure that there is full contact between the adhesive and your skin – use a bit of light pressure with your hand

  4. Change your appliance as soon as you feel any discomfort or itching

  5. Check the size of the stoma regularly, especially if you have a hernia

  6. Make sure to use the stoma appliance and accessories most appropriate for your body profile 
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