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If you’re experiencing redness, itching, or pain near your stoma, it’s important to seek help.
By Linda Coulter, BSN, MS, RN, CWOCN
Ideally, the skin around your stoma should be healthy, intact, and look the same as the skin on other areas of your belly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. At the first signs of redness, itching, or pain near your stoma, contact your wound ostomy continence (WOC) nurse. They are experienced in identifying the cause of the irritation and knowing how to correct it. Some healthcare clinics now offer virtual visits, which can make it easier for you and your WOC nurse to solve the problem.
When you speak to your ostomy nurse, they will ask questions to determine how urgent the situation is. In some cases, you will need to make an appointment as soon as possible. Other times, they will give you recommendations to try to correct the condition at home. Then, if the situation doesn’t improve after a pouch change or two, you’ll need to make an appointment.
Urgent situations include suspicion of stoma infection or large, painful sores on the skin around your stoma. Signs of a stoma infection include a red, hard, warm, or hot area, with or without drainage. These conditions require the attention of a physician or nurse practitioner, as well as a WOC nurse. The former will prescribe medications and may drain the area, while the ostomy nurse will recommend temporary dressings and ostomy pouching products to use while the skin heals.
There are four common types of skin irritation near the stoma. Each has a specific appearance and feel. Whether you need to see your ostomy nurse or not will depend on how severe the condition is. Here’s how to recognize and take steps to solve these problems:
If you have redness, itching, or pain around your stoma, look for clues to the cause, and take steps to correct it. And don’t hesitate to contact your wound ostomy continence nurse, who is trained to recognize these problems and knows how to solve them.
Linda Coulter has been a certified Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse since 2010 and currently cares for patients at University Hospitals’ Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood, Ohio. Linda has presented on Ostomy Care in the United States and abroad, and is a clinical instructor for the RB Turnbull School of WOC Nursing. She is a regular contributor to The Phoenix, the official publication of the United Ostomy Associations of America, and serves on that organization’s Medical Advisory Board.
Financial Disclosure: Linda Coulter received compensation from Hollister Incorporated for her contribution to this article.
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