It's important to be aware of the possible problems you may experience after a colostomy.
People who have a colostomy, but have an intact rectum and anus, often experience a discharge of mucus from their rectum. Mucus is produced by the lining of the bowel to help the passage of stools.
The lining of the bowel continues to produce mucus, even though it no longer serves any purpose. The longer the length of the remaining section of your bowel, the more likely you are to experience rectal discharge.
The mucus can vary, from a clear "egg white" to a sticky, glue-like consistency. If there's blood or pus in the discharge, contact your GP, because it may be a sign of infection or tissue damage.
The mucus can either leak out of your rectum and anus or build up into a ball, which can become uncomfortable.
The pattern of rectal discharge varies in each individual. Some people experience episodes every few weeks, while others experience several episodes a day.
Many people find that the most effective method of managing rectal discharge is to sit on the toilet each day and push down as if passing a stool. This should remove any mucus located in the rectum and prevent it building into a ball.
However, some people find this hard to do, because surgery has reduced the sensation in their rectum. If this is the case, contact your GP, because you may need further treatment.
Glycerine suppositories (which you insert into your bottom) can often help. When the capsules dissolve, they make the mucus more watery, so it's easier to get rid of.
In some cases, the mucus can irritate the skin around the anus. Using a barrier skin cream should help. You may need to try a few before you find one that works for you. Your pharmacist can advise on the different creams available.
Some people have reported that eating certain foods increases the production of mucus. While there's no scientific evidence to support this, you may want to consider keeping a food diary for a few weeks to see if certain foods could be linked to an increase in mucus production.
A hernia occurs when an internal part of the body, such as an organ, pushes through a weakness in the muscle or surrounding tissue wall.
In cases of parastomal hernia, the intestines push through the muscles around the stoma, resulting in a noticeable bulge under the skin. People with colostomies have an increased risk of developing parastomal hernias, because the muscles in their abdomen have been weakened during surgery.
Ways of preventing a parastomal hernia include:
A parastomal hernia isn't usually painful, but it may be more difficult to hold the colostomy appliance in place and change it.
Most hernias can be managed without the need for surgery, with advice and support from your stoma care nurse. In some cases, surgery may be required to repair the hernia. However, even after surgery, the hernia can reoccur.
Some people develop a blockage in their stoma because of a build-up of food. Signs of a blockage can include:
If you think your stoma is obstructed, it's recommended that you:
However, if there's no improvement within two hours and you've tried these steps, you should immediately contact your GP or stoma nurse for advice, or visit your local Accident and Emergency (A&E) department, because there's a risk your colon could burst (rupture).
You can reduce your chances of developing a stoma blockage by chewing your food slowly and thoroughly, keeping hydrated, and not eating large amounts of food at one time.
You should also try to avoid foods known to cause blockage problems, such as corn, celery, popcorn, nuts, coleslaw, coconut macaroons, grapefruit, Chinese vegetables such as bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, raisins, dried fruit, potato skins, apple skins and orange rinds.
A number of other complications can occur after a colostomy, such as:
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