The word "stoma" is derived from the Greed word for mouth, "stomata." A natural stoma is known as any opening in the body, such as the mouth. Usually when a doctor is referring to a stoma, he or she is referring to an artificial opening created by doctors, usually in the large intestine, that is sewn open through the skin. Once an opening is made in the intestine, the fecal matter can drain directly out of the large intestine, out of the stoma, and into a bag outside of the body. This way, the rectum can be bypassed. It is common for a stoma to become infected. Without proper disinfectant and cleansing care, a stoma can become easily red or irritated, which may create an infection.
Some stoma surgeries are temporary and will be removed when the body has healed. Feeding tubes can be placed directly into the stomach using a stoma, and sometimes individuals who have trouble urinating may have a stoma placed in his or her bladder. The stoma pouch, which is attached at the stoma and worn on the inside of clothing, is usually disposable and needs to be changed.
Types of stoma procedures include colostomy, where the stoma is created from the large intestine, urostomy, where the urinary tract is connected to the abdominal wall, ileostomy, where the opening is created from the small intestine, gastrostomy, where the stoma is connected directly to the stomach to attach a feeding tube, and jejunostomy, where the opening is in the small intestine, which is also used to attach a feeding tube.
A temporary stoma is usually created to install feeding tubes, and can be used for several months at the most. Then, the stoma any necessary organs will be stitched up and the body will return to normal. A permanent stoma will be in place for longer periods of time, sometimes the entire life of the patient. Permanent stomas are not necessary in most patients and are not usually recommended except in the case of colostomy. Permanent stomas, however, are becoming more common in medicine, so it is important to be able to tell when the stoma is infected.
A healthy stoma will appear large, red and swollen immediately after surgery. After a few weeks of recovery, however, the stoma should appear much smaller and shrink only slightly past the skin. The stoma may appear shrivelled and puckered, almost like a belly button. If you have a stoma that evacuates solid waste, it will appear smaller and less red than a stoma that releases liquid waste, because liquid waste is more likely to come in contact with the skin and irritate it. It is important that you clean the stoma regularly to prevent infection. The stoma cleans itself by releasing mucous membranes that free many foreign particles from the area, but it is also important to rinse the stoma in water and light soap, if necessary. The stoma should never be scrubbed or scratched with your fingers, nails or any foreign objects.
If a stoma appears excessively red or swollen after several weeks, it may be infected. Do not scrub or pick at the stoma. If you have body hair around the stoma, trim the hair regularly to prevent the hair from growing inside the stoma. The skin on your stoma should look like skin elsewhere on your body and should not be excessively red or irritated. You may use an adhesive to connect your stoma bag, but do not scratch or pick at the sealant once the bag has been taken off. It is far better to leave the stoma alone than attempting to rub the glue off. See a doctor immediately if your stoma becomes red, irritated or painful.
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