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Common Problems to Expect If You Have a Stoma

Updated on July 17, 2017
AloBeDa profile image

Adjusting to a colostomy is tough—for me it was like a horrible dream. But with a positive mindset, I adjusted wonderfully.

With a stoma, there are a number of mishaps and situations, some of them kind of embarrassing, that you'll most likely encounter. Even though some may appear worrisome, and others a bit funny (yes, hilarious), most are not really serious and not worth worrying about either.

Once you know what to expect, you will know how to manage, and even overcome them.

Bothersome Mishaps to Lookout For

As an ex-ostomate who has been there, I'll tell you of the ones that gave me a bit of a bother and let you know how I managed such occurrences and eventually overcame them.

1. Flatulence

Personally, I find passing gas as an ostomate a kind of a comic relief.

Why do I say this? Because gas passing out through the stoma is hardly ever silent.

For some strange reason, it always reminds me of a baby gurgling or the act of blowing bubbles. I find the sounds quite cute actually.

Before gas is expelled, you'll start to get a funny feeling in your tummy, letting you know it’s on its way. You get about 10 to 15 seconds notice before it finally erupts, so learn to recognize it.

AND the sound IS loud enough to attract those sitting close to you.

To handle this situation, I approached it with some sense of humor.

If it was within earshot (which is usual), I simply chuckle while the sound is on, and just say "Sorry about this! I recently had a surgical procedure and I don't have much control over this bubbling sound for now".

Surprisingly no-one was ever offended, and IF they were, they never showed it. Good enough for me!

2. Loose Stool

You will soon discover that foods with high levels of roughage - some fruits, cereals, and salads, for instance, are "among the most efficient foods and produce the least amount of stool". These are good to eat before going out for a function.

Your colostomy bag won't fill up unexpectedly and you won't need to go back and forth for a change or drain.

On the there hand, junk foods - fast foods, rich restaurant dishes, beans, and such tend to produce the most waste in relation to consumption. So watch what you eat before you go on an outing, to school, or to work.

Also, try to study which foods take long to process in your digestive system, and which ones don't.

What I do is to keep a mental note of my observations, and adhere strictly to it.

For instance, as one patient said, "You don't want to eat pork and beans five hours before you go to a quiet church service, neither would you want to eat a fast food lunch if you were planning a long road trip".

Very loose stool fills your bag up in no time so plan your meals according to your daily lined up activities especially if you are always on-the-move. This way, you can avoid embarrassing situations and will be able to keep colostomy bag inconveniences to the barest minimum.

3. Bag Leaks

This is one situation you don't want to encounter, especially when you are outdoors. When leaks happen, feces seeps out through an open bubble in the colostomy bag's faceplate and the first thing you'll notice is that whiff of smell; that telltale odor. You can't miss it!

As soon as you detect this odour, go and change your bag, and replace the waxy faceplate if need be. Never dismiss it because it will just get worse and the odour will spread before you know it.

A great must-have are seal rings. With a seal ring fitted, you can be doubly sure there'll be no leakages and thus no seeping odour. You can even take a bath and not worry about leaking or the bag peeling off.

I never had much problem with this (I can detect smell faster than a bloodhound) and I'm up and off to the loo before anyone notices. If I'm far away from a public or private toilet, I'm in deep you-know-what, and so will you! Lucky enough, I was fortunate not to be in that situation.

I can't emphasise this enough - you must carry at least two spare colostomy bags and one faceplate (if you use the two-piece appliance) AT ALL TIMES. If a leak or blowout occurs they will be a real lifesaver.

4. Discomfort in the Rectum

I vividly remember the first time I had some discomfort in my rectum. I kept getting this weird feeling of wanting to go to the loo to defaecate. It was so alarming, I called my doctor.

He then calmed my nerves and informed me that once in a while, I will eliminate rectally. He told me to use a very mild suppository and I did.

This is when I learned that the rectum still produces mucus that needs to be eliminated when it has accumulated. Good thing? It only happens once in a while for most ostomates and it’s hardly larger than a red grape, but this is normal so don't get alarmed if/when it happens.

5. Face Plate Water Absorption

The wax-like faceplate of a colostomy bag is fine if you shower. Because you only spend a short time showering, there's hardly enough time for it to absorb water. Of course, the bag itself is waterproof.

An ostomate can also swim comfortably with a bag on as long as he or she doesn't stay in the water for more than a quarter of an hour, tops.

You'll find that if you stay longer in the water, the waxy plate absorbs the water from the edges slowly and if it is exposed to water for longer than is necessary, the wax starts to soften, becoming almost like putty, and lift from its position.

At this stage, the appliance will lose its sticky quality and begin to come off. Disaster!

How to avoid this? Swim for no longer than 45 minutes and ensure you change the whole bag (if disposable) or the faceplate (if a 2piece system) once you are done with swimming.

One more thing, don't sunbathe for longer than is necessary. Your stoma is insensitive to pain or stimulus, so don't expose the area to direct sunlight any more than is necessary. You don't want to 'fry' the poor little button with sunburn.

Stoma Care

On a final note, it’s good to remember that your stoma is sort of alien to your abdomen and needs some extra attention if you wish to avoid or keep to the barest minimum unforeseen situations or colostomy bag/stoma mishaps.

© 2015 Alobeda

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