A stoma is an opening from the digestive system that is created during a surgery to treat a serious disease of the bowel, like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. This opening is the exit point for stool from the bowel. A stoma can temporarily allow the downstream bowel to heal after surgery. Or it may permanently divert stools from your intestine to an external bag. Many people across the world have a stoma for a variety of reasons and live healthy normal lives. There are two kinds of stomas: a colostomy, made from the colon, or an ileostomy, made from the ileum (or part of the small bowel).
If you have a colostomy or ileostomy, or are due to have one in the near future, you may be concerned about what life will be like. Can you go back to work after a colostomy or ileostomy? Can you be physically or sexually active? Will your stoma pouch be visible to others? Our stomal therapists are here to help you and answer any question you may have.
Living With a Stoma
Although it can be difficult to adjust to at first, having a colostomy or ileostomy does not mean you cannot have a full and active life. It takes time to become comfortable with a stoma. You can do many of the same activities you enjoyed before your colostomy or other ostomy surgery.
- With your doctor's approval, you can return to your normal diet and eat your favorite foods.
- You can return to work, and to physical activity
- You can decide for yourself whether your stoma is public or private information. It will not be visible to others under your clothes.
To help reduce skin irritation, colostomy appliances are made from non-allergic material, and contain special filters that ensure the appliance does not release any unpleasant odors. There are also additional products that can make living with a colostomy more convenient, including:
- Support belts and girdles
- Deodorizers that can be inserted into your appliance
- Protective skin wipes
- Adhesive remover sprays
- Protective stoma rings
- Specially designed underwear and swimwear
Compassionate Stoma Therapy at Penn State IBD Center
If you are or will be living with a stoma, Penn State Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center has dedicated stomal therapists who are here to support you. We also have weekly education classes where you will learn to manage your stoma on models before you get it. Your stoma care therapist will be able to advise you on the most appropriate equipment to manage your colostomy successfully. Your stomal therapy nurse can counsel and educate you in all aspects of living with a stoma.