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Stoma Advice

What is a stoma?

A stoma is when a small opening is created on the surface of the abdomen to divert the flow of faeces and/or urine.

What does a stoma look like?

A healthy stoma looks pink/red and fleshy, with a moist surface. The surface of the stoma produces mucous, which usually mixes with the stoma output, but you may notice clear fluid on the stoma surface.

The stoma protrudes from the skin surface; an ileostomy and urostomy usually protrude more than a colostomy. Every stoma is individual, so your stoma may not look like the pictures you see in information booklets.

A stoma has an excellent blood supply and should feel warm to the touch. When you wipe the stoma, you may notice blood spotting on your cloth. This is quite normal and may be more noticeable if you take blood thinners.

There are no nerve endings on the stoma surface, so you won’t feel anything when you touch it. The size can vary depending on whether it is a loop or an end stoma.

When the stoma is first formed, it can be quite swollen but will gradually reduce in size. It can take 6-8 weeks for the stoma to settle to its final size, but it is advisable to check the size from time to time as changes in body weight and shape can affect it. For instance, if you put weight on or lose weight, develop a hernia around the stoma, or for women who become pregnant as their tummy size increases.

Why people have a stoma

It’s thought that more than 25,000 people undergo stoma surgery each year. The most common underlying conditions resulting in stoma formation are colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Living with a stoma

Whatever type of stoma you have, you will want to get your life back to normal after surgery. The discreet and efficient design of stoma bags and care products mean there is no reason why you cannot continue to do all the things you did before.

Over these pages, you’ll find information and practical stoma advice for everyday life.