What Is A Stoma?

A Stoma is a small opening surgically created in the lower abdomen, for the purpose of diverting urine or faeces.

The word itself comes from Greek, where it means mouth or opening,

There are three different types of stoma; colostomy, ileostomy, and urostomy.

Stomas are usually the result of surgery following an issue with the patient’s digestive system which could be as a result of an accident, illness or injury.It is estimated that 13,000 people have stoma surgery each year.

Stomas can either be a permanent or temporary measure, this being dependent on the severity of the problems, and whether or not the digestive system can be repaired following surgery.

The Three Different Types of Stoma


A colostomy refers to an opening in the large intestine. Normally, the operation will involve bringing a piece of the colon from inside the patient’s body, through the abdomen, before stitching the end of the colon together.

The Stoma from a colostomy normally but not always, ends up on the left side of the abdomen. Most patients that have a colostomy operation will be required to wear a colostomy bag. This bag collects the faeces, as unfortunately, the patient will have no control over when to pass the faeces.

Every time a bowel movement takes places, the bag will need changing, and on average, this is 1 to 3 times a day.


Where a colostomy refers to an opening in the large intestine, an Ileostomy relates to an opening in the small intestine or the ileum. As with the colostomy operation, the end of the ileum is then pulled through to outside the abdomen, to form a stoma.

An ileostomy stoma is normally on the right-hand side of the body.

The main diseases that can result in the need for an Ileostomy are;

  • Crohn's Disease - More information, visit Crohn's & Collitis UK
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Cancerous Growths In or Around The Colon
  • Ulcerative Colitis

One of the main purposes of the colon, in the digestive system, is to remove any moisture and salt from the faeces.

When the colon is removed, the faeces are subsequently more liquid in consistency, and again the patient will have no control over when they leave the body.

For most people, the volume of faeces after this operation is about 500 to 700 ml every 24-hour period. The bag will need to be emptied on a regular basis, throughout the day, and changed every 1 to 3 days.


A Urostomy is an operation that is required when the bladder is either diseased or not working as it should. The operation requires the bladder to either be removed or bypassed.

Once the surgery has been completed, the urine is then directed to a stoma in the stomach.

What Should A Stoma Look Like?

A stoma should be a similar colour to the inside of your mouth, and the skin may have a puckered type of appearance, like your belly button.

The stoma will have no feeling and will feel warm to the touch. It may occasionally bleed when wiped, but this is perfectly natural and nothing to worry about.

A colostomy stoma is normally flush to the skin, while an ileostomy is normally raised a little in order to assist the flow of liquid into the bag.

Tips For Looking After Your Stoma

Living with a stoma can be a challenge, and certainly, comes with a steep learning curve.

There are certain tips and tricks relating to stoma care, which when followed can make the procedures that little bit easier. Although patients have no control over when their stoma is active, they can still see when the bag needs to be changed.

Try to ascertain when the stoma is least active, as this is the optimum time to change the bag. The procedure should be quicker, easier and cleaner.

When changing the bag, try warming it up between your hands before applying it, as naturally, this will bring it to room temperature. Don’t forget to take good care of the skin around the stoma as well as the actual stoma itself.

Don’t apply oil based products to the skin near the stoma, as this will make attaching the bag more of a challenge. Any skin care products that contain alcohol should be avoided, as these tend to irritate the skin.

There is a wide range of alcohol-free skin care products available, including; adhesive removers, non-sting wipes, skin lotions, tissues, and deodorants. View all products here.

When fitting your bag, try to ensure you get a good and complete seal, by making sure the skin is not wrinkled or damaged. If you have hair in the surrounding skin, consider removing it either by shaving or laser removal.

The priority is to get the best seal possible, and any hair no matter how small could prevent a perfect seal forming, which in turn could cause leakage.

Never be afraid to go back to your doctor or nurse to ask questions about applying the bag. There is nothing to be embarrassed about and it is critical that you can form a perfect seal every time.

The more you practice, the more confident and competent you will become.

How To Keep Your Stoma Clean and Hygenic

First and foremost, keep a close eye on your stoma, to ensure it is clean. If you notice any significant change in appearance, then do not hesitate to seek advice from your doctor.

Be careful when taking a shower, to ensure the powerful jets do not directly hit your stoma, as this could potentially cause issues.

If you need to make use of a public toilet, you are entitled to use the disabled facilities. This is advisable, as there is normally more privacy and a larger area available for you, which should make changing the bag slightly easier.

Speak to your nurse or medical practitioner about obtaining a RADAR key, which will give you quick and easy access to the disabled facilities.

Make yourself a first aid style kit comprising or spare bags, creams and toilet paper that you like to use, and that you know doesn’t irritate your skin.

Public facilities are not always immaculately maintained, and frequently run out of toilet paper, so be prepared. Luke warm water and dry wipes, are always the recommended materials for cleaning your stoma.

Wet wipes can be used, but it is important to ensure that they are lanolin and fragrance-free, to prevent irritation.