Ileostomy Skin Care
The prospect of life with an ostomy often seems daunting. The idea of having a portion of your intestine protruding through your abdomen is not a pleasant thought. However, complications from conditions such as cancer, Crohn's disease, diverticulitis and Alagille's syndrome may make having an ostomy surgery a better option than living with the risks and complications of your condition. With proper maintenance and skin care, people with ostomies often enjoy most of the same activities as those without.
An ileostomy is a surgical procedure in which the end portion of the small intestine, called the ileum, is brought out through a surgical incision in the abdomen, usually on the lower right side. The protruding part of the intestine is called a stoma, according to the American Cancer Society. After surgery, the stoma is typically covered with a plastic pouch affixed to the skin with an adhesive wafer. Some pouches have drainable openings on one end, while others must be removed completely in order to drain them.
The purpose of an ileostomy is to facilitate the drainage of waste that cannot otherwise be effectively eliminated from the body, according to the Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology website. This may be necessary to eliminate fecal waste for people with conditions such as diverticulitis, an inflammation of the intestinal wall. In other cases, an ileostomy may be used to divert bile from the body and prevent liver damage. People with Alagille's syndrome, for example, often lack the necessary bile ducts to drain bile from the liver, according to the Journal of Pediatric Surgery.
One of the best ways to protect the skin around an ileostomy is to drain the pouch regularly, usually when it is one-third full. This helps to prevent waste from gathering around the stoma and seeping between the skin and the adhesive wafer holding the pouch in place. Waste that seeps between the adhesive wafer and the skin can cause irritation and infections. Emptying the ileostomy pouch regularly also keeps the pouch from bulging, which can make it more noticeable under clothing, according to MayoClinic.com.
Skin care for an ileostomy is typically performed after removing a drainage pouch and before attaching a new one. The area around the ileostomy can be cleaned with a mild water-based soap, preferably one that does not contain perfumes or moisturizers. An alcohol pad or similar treatment is often used to remove any soap residue from the skin, which could prevent the new adhesive wafer from adhering properly to the skin.
An ileostomy should never be cleaned by taking off the pouch before getting into the bathtub or shower. Submerging the stoma in water without a protective pouch puts you at risk for infection. The stoma is blood-rich tissue with thousands of tiny blood vessels that can quickly transmit bacteria to the body.
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