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Irritated skin

A huge part of effective stoma care is ensuring that the peristomal skin, which is the skin around the stoma remains healthy. The majority of ostomates will experience difficulty with their skin from time to time.

Irritated skin around the stoma is a common problem that can be uncomfortable and even painful. Not only that, but it can also affect how effective your stoma bag is and prevent it from working at maximum capacity. The skin around your stoma should look as healthy as the rest of your body, so if it has become broken and damaged it’s likely that your skin has become irritated.

Please note: it is normal to have a small pink circle when you first remove the adhesive, this should fade fairly quickly.

Why is my skin irritated?

There are a variety of reasons that the skin around your stoma may become irritated, including:

The most common explanation is that it’s due to leakage from your stoma bag. The output from your stoma may have gotten underneath the adhesive causing your skin to become irritated. Leakages can occur as part of everyday life with a stoma, however, a person is more prone to this if their output changes and becomes loose and watery.

It’s crucial that you ensure that the peristomal skin around your stoma is clean and dry before applying your stoma bag. If you apply it to a damp area of skin then it may affect the integrity of the adhesive and allow the skin to become irritated.

It’s less likely, but there is a possibility that you may be allergic to the flange on your stoma bag. If this is the case, then there are alternatives available that might be kinder on your skin. It’s worth talking to your stoma nurse to discuss the possibility of an allergy and the alternatives suitable for you.

The shape of my stoma has changed
Your stoma may change shape dramatically in the few weeks post-surgery, usually becoming smaller but at later stages, it may also alter. When you place the template from your stoma bag over your stoma it should fit fairly snugly with just a couple of millimetres of skin showing. It is even more important to make sure any sore skin is covered—remember that the base of your bag is made from the same material used to dress wounds. However, you do not want to make the template too small as the edges of the baseplate can then dig into your stoma. If you are unsure about changing the template size then see your stoma care nurse.

This usually affects people with a colostomy. As the faeces/poo exits the stoma it seems to remain stuck over the stoma instead of dropping down into the bag and eventually causes leakage and sore skin under the baseplate. Please refer to the ‘tips to help with pancaking’ for more information on ‘pancaking’.

What can I use to treat irritated skin?

We would recommend that you only ever use warm water to clean the area around your stoma as soaps and baby wipes often have perfumes which can cause the skin to become more irritated. Once clean, you might want to use a topical skincare barrier, such as iLex, to protect the skin.

For more detailed information on treating irritated skin, we would always recommend that you discuss in detail with your stoma care nurse to ensure you are only using products and treatments that are safe to do so.

Tips for keeping the area around your stoma healthy

The best way to treat irritated skin is to prevent it completely! This means taking care to ensure that you keep the skin clean and healthy. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

  • Clean the skin around your stoma with warm water and avoid using soaps and baby wipes.
  • Take note of the shape and size of your stoma every few months. If it changes you may need to change bag to ensure it still fits comfortably.
  • Be careful when removing the adhesive whilst changing your bag, over time you can damage the skin and leave it prone to irritation otherwise.
  • Always ensure your skin is dry before applying a new stoma bag, you can set a hairdryer to a cool, low setting to help with this.
  • If you need to shave around your stoma, make sure you only do so with clean, warm water and avoid using shaving foams and creams.

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