Living with a STOMA

Living with a STOMA

What Is A Stoma?

A stoma is an opening in your abdomen that’s used to remove bodily waste. Usually feces and urine (in the case of a colostomy or ileostomy) into a small bag.

It may take time to get used to having a stoma. But thousands of Australians live with stomas and lead normal lives.


A stoma is an opening on your abdomen that allows waste (urine or faeces) to be diverted from your body. The opening is created by surgery to connect either your digestive or urinary system.

Depending on your medical condition, you may need a stoma for many reasons. Common reasons include bowel cancer, bladder cancer, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Stomas can be temporary or permanent. In some cases, you’ll need a stoma for a long time, such as with colon cancer.

To make a stoma, the doctor will pull part of your small or large intestine and sew it onto an opening in your abdomen. The intestine end empties waste into a bag attached to your stoma.


Stomas can be very uncomfortable and take a little time to get used to. However, most people learn to live with them and lead a relatively normal life.

During the early days after surgery you may experience pain, redness and swelling. These are normal and should settle over the course of the first few months, but if they don’t or if the pain increases it is best to see your doctor.

Sore skin and chafing around your stoma are also common. This can be caused by your stoma appliance or an underlying skin condition.

Infections are also a concern, particularly in the beginning of surgery. Changes in color or oozing of pus are signs of infection and should be treated as soon as possible by your GP or ostomy nurse.

Stenosis is another concern, causing the output from the stoma to become ribbon-like or even liquid. Your Stoma Care Nurse will advise you about this following assessment.


A stoma is a small opening in the abdominal wall where waste (urine or faeces) can be diverted from your body. The stoma may lie flat to your abdomen or protrude slightly outward.

A colostomy is usually created by surgery and you may stay in hospital for up to a week after your operation. While in hospital, you'll be taught to care for your stoma and the bag that collects waste.

You'll also learn how to change your ostomy appliance. You'll be given a full set of instructions so you can take them home with you when you leave the hospital.

You can also buy equipment to help you with your stoma, such as special appliances and adhesive seals. These can help keep your stoma clean and free of infection. You should also be given some highly absorbent reusable bed pads.


Stomal complications are a common source of morbidity following surgery. Fortunately, these can be prevented.

To prevent stomal leakage, a stoma bag needs to be a good fit for your peristomal skin. If the skin is inflamed or moist, it won’t properly adhere to the wafer. This can lead to a leaking stoma bag, and the fluids will cause further skin irritation.

The size of your stoma is also important. You should measure it frequently, as the size might change over time.

If your stoma is too large, it might leak and you might need a new stoma. A stoma can get bigger or smaller over time because of weight gain, scar tissue, or improper placement.

Your stoma can also move inward or outward, known as retraction. This can also cause problems with your appliance and stoma leakage.