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How to treat skin irritation around your stoma

Skin irritation around a stoma should not be expected, but can often occur for a variety of reasons. Once the skin becomes irritated and sore, it can cause a great deal of discomfort. Be sure to contact your Stoma Care Nurse for advice and support as it is important to find the reason why your skin is sore, before attempting to treat it yourself. 

There are many remedies especially for the skin around the stoma, which will help soothe the skin and settle the irritation. It is wise to note that not all lotions and potions in your bathroom cupboard are ideal to apply on the skin around your stoma, as they may stop the pouch from sticking, which will only make things worse. Your nurse will guide you with what to use and help identify the cause of the sore, they will also try to resolve the situation, so you hopefully won’t experience it again.

What happens when you have sore skin? 

If you’re experiencing sore peristomal skin, you may experience the following:

  • Discomfort, itching, soreness or pain around the stoma.
  • Excessive bleeding which doesn’t resolve from around the stoma.
  • The skin around the stoma becomes red and inflamed
  • A bumpy, raised rash maybe present
  • Skin colour changes from your normal skin colour to a reddened/inflamed area, it may even change to a bluish-purple colour or even black.

What causes skin irritation?

There are a number of different reasons why you may be experiencing sore skin, some of the most common ones include:

  • A poorly fitting appliance
  • Leaks from the stoma, which cause the effluent (bowel or alkaline urine) to sit on the skin
  • Frequent removal of pouch which can strip the skin
  • Pre-existing skin conditions such as sensitive skin, eczema or psoriasis
  • Humidity from hot weather
  • The use of chemicals such as fragranced soaps, detergents, deodorisers, bleach-based cleaning wipes or baby wipes.

Other reasons include:

  • The hole (aperture) in the pouch might be the wrong size
  • Uneven surfaces of skin, from skin folds or scarring due to surgery
  • Excessive sweating can prevent the pouch from sticking well
  • The effluent from your stoma maybe excessive
  • The effluent may corrode the hydrocolloid (adhesive of pouch) causing irritation
  • An underlying skin irritation may stop the pouch from sticking properly
  • Contact dermatitis (an allergy) from any of the stoma products

What can I do to treat it?

Below are some of the ways in which you can treat your sore skin:

  • Remeasuring of the aperture and stoma size, so that the pouch fits correctly.
  • Adhesive remover sprays or wipes to help with the gentle removal of pouches.
  • Stoma powders sprinkled sparingly to any moist irritated skin, to ease discomfort 
  • Barrier creams or sprays can be used for a short period of time
  • Non-sting stoma pastes to help with adhesion of to the flange to the skin
  • Topical steroid lotions can be used as a short course of treatment if irritation is severe, these would need to be prescribed by your stoma nurse or GP
  • Pouches with alginate, Aloe Vera or Vitamin E in the backing of the pouch can to help soothe the irritated skin
  • If you suffer with a skin condition such as psoriasis or eczema and the sore skin around your stoma resembles this too, you can try using small amounts of your usual prescribed cream. 

Remember to always ask your HCP or stoma nurse for advice as it’s their job to help you!

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