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What to expect from a urostomy and how you can overcome the challenges

As the name suggests, a urostomy’s purpose is to create a way for urine to exit the body into a stoma appliance/pouch/bag. Other terms you may hear for a urostomy are ‘ileal conduit’ or urinary diversion.

There are a number of reasons why a urostomy may be required. For example, bladder cancer or conditions which may affect the bladder’s ability to function properly. Depending on the reason for surgery, the bladder may or may not be removed. Either way, a urostomy simply diverts the urine produced by the kidneys, away from the bladder and into an appliance/pouch/bag. Because of the way the stoma is formed, it is normal to see some strands of mucous in the urine produced by a urostomy. Maintaining an adequate fluid intake can help reduce this and can help with the longevity of your appliance wear times.

Getting used to day-to-day life after having stoma surgery can be a daunting prospect, but there’s no need to worry about it. Like all things, learning to care for your urostomy is bound to take a little time, but for the majority of people it soon becomes second nature.

In this post, we’re going to talk about some of the common challenges you may encounter with your urostomy and provide some simple solutions to overcome them.

How your urostomy appliance looks

Leading up to, and during the early recovery from your operation, it’s completely normal to have a lot of questions. One of the biggest things on the minds of many ostomates is “What will my urostomy appliance look like?” and “Will anybody be able to see it?”

Whilst there’s no need to feel embarrassed about wearing an appliance, the good news is that urostomy appliances are very discreet and actually pretty hard to notice when you are clothed. Although you may be self-conscious about your urostomy, the truth is, many people won’t know about it unless you choose to tell them. Knowing who to tell about your stoma is a topic we’ve previously discussed and you can find plenty of advice about that here.

Your stoma nurse will provide you with a range of different appliances to try – some have a tap outlet, whilst others have a bung. This enables the appliance to be conveniently drained straight into the toilet. A urostomy appliance will hold the same volume of urine as your bladder did, so you should not need to drain your appliance any more often than you passed urine before your surgery!

Some people like to attach a larger drainage bag at night, to enable them to sleep without the fear of their appliance over-filling – this is personal choice.

Will it affect your hobbies?

Life is all about having fun, so it’s understandable to have concerns about whether your urostomy will affect you doing the things you enjoy. Before your surgery your stoma nurse will be able to advise you on any activities to be cautious with during your recovery, although the likelihood is that once you are fully recovered you’ll be able to return to doing the things you love. Depending on the type of surgery, you could be planning a gradual return to your exercise and sports as soon as four weeks after your operation.

You should take care if you’re doing any strenuous lifting, but most forms of exercise – even swimming – are all possible.

During workouts or swimming, you could try using a smaller urostomy pouch if it makes you feel more comfortable. Your stoma nurse will be able to help advise on the best options.

Changes to your body

After having your urostomy, there will inevitably be some changes with your body which you will take time to adjust to. With the help of your stoma nurse and support from those close to you, it doesn’t need to be difficult.

One of the most important things to focus on is taking care of the skin around your stoma. Ensure the adhesive plate from your urostomy appliance is well fitting around your stoma, so that the skin doesn’t come into contact with urine, which may cause irritation.

Your stoma nurse will show you how to care for your stoma and clean the surrounding skin – warm tap water is all that is required.  It’s normal to experience a small amount of bleeding whilst cleaning, but excessive amounts of blood or blood coming from inside the stoma could be a cause for concern. If in doubt, speak to your stoma nurse.

When it comes to changing your urostomy appliance, you’ll soon work out a routine that suits you. Have a look at our guide to changing a stoma bag for some useful tips and advice.

As we’ve already said, if you’re ever in doubt about anything, simply pick up the phone and speak to your stoma nurse. They’ll be able to provide personal support with anything from care advice to getting the supplies you need.

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