Tips for ensuring your peristomal skin stays in good condition
The skin around your ostomy stoma (peristomal skin) can be prone to damage and irritation if not properly cared for. Damaged peristomal skin can often be painful, itchy, sore and often hard to manage. Because the skin barrier for your ostomy system needs to be placed over this damaged skin, often a vicious cycle of poor adhesion, leakage and increased skin damage occurs. In this article we’ll give you a few tips to help keep your skin healthy and irritation free.
Make sure your skin barrier fits properly
The output from your stoma is not good for your skin, so really you want to make sure that your skin barrier fits perfectly. A perfect fit means that there is no exposed skin between the barrier’s inner edge and your stoma. It’s also important to pay attention to the shape and characteristics of your stomach around your stoma. Some people have hard flat stomachs, some have soft, loose skin on their stomach, while others may find that their stomach is easily depressed around their stoma. Everyone’s stoma and stomach are unique and can change over time. Don’t be afraid to ask your ostomy nurse to try other options, products and brands of ostomy care products to make sure you have the right combination for you regardless of how long you have used ostomy products before.
Ensure that it is secure
Motion and pulling on the skin barrier lead to skin damage. This can occur by either the adhesion of the barrier pulling on your skin more than it can tolerate or by the adhesion eroding and leakage occurring. You will want to make sure that your ostomy equipment is secure and staying in place. If you are being active with work or exercise you will want to make sure that your pouch is secure with either an ostomy belt or appropriately chosen clothing that helps hold things in place. You will also want to make sure that you empty your pouch regularly. The extra weight can easily pull on the skin enough to cause skin damage.
Remove your barrier carefully
You have to change your ostomy equipment eventually. In fact regularly scheduled equipment changes are recommended based on your individual needs and stoma characteristics. It is important not to wait until things start to degrade before switching things up. When you do go to remove your barrier, go slow. The adhesives on your barrier are very strong and your skin can easily stay with the barrier if you go too fast. Start with a corner or the top edge and detach the barrier bit by bit.
Develop good skin care habits
I’ve already mentioned sticking to regular emptying and changing schedules. A regular cleaning schedule for your peristomal skin is also very important. Within your cleaning routine, be conscious of the soaps and creams that you use. You will want to be sure that the products you use don’t leave any films or residue on your skin that can affect your skin’s integrity once covered by a barrier or reduce the adherence of your barrier and lead to potential leaks. For many people just water is sufficient for cleaning the skin around their stoma. If water isn’t enough, ask your ostomy nurse if there are any ostomy specific products that are designed and tested to work with your equipment.
When in doubt ask for help
Lastly, know what your peristomal skin looks like when it is healthy. As soon as your skin starts to change, or even if you are simply in doubt contact your ostomy nurse and ask for help. Unfortunately, most people who use an ostomy system will deal with peristomal skin issues at some point. Resolving the issues that are causing the irritated skin early is the best habit that you can develop for your overall health and wellness.