Living with an Ostomy

Living with an Ostomy

When your body can't get rid of waste in the normal way, you may need an ostomy. This can happen because of a disease or a medical procedure. An ostomy is an opening that is created surgically somewhere on the body to help get rid of stool or urine. The waste is collected in a removable bag, called a pouch. The pouch is on the outside of the body and can be emptied as needed.

Ostomies often get confused with stomas, but they are different medical terms. Ostomy means the opening itself. Stoma refers to the end of the ureter or bowel that often has to extend slightly through the ostomy in order for urine or feces to leave the body.

Ostomy types

Ostomies come in many different types. The most common is a colostomy, when part of the colon or rectum needs to be removed. In this procedure, an opening is made in the abdominal wall. A remaining part of bowel is connected to it for the stool. Colostomies can be temporary or permanent. They have subtypes, depending on where the colostomy is made. These include sigmoid or descending, transverse, loop, and ascending. An ileostomy is a similar type of procedure done on the ileum. The ileum is part of the small intestine.

All ostomies include a pouch and a wafer that helps protect the skin from irritation.

The challenges of an ostomy

When you have to undergo an ostomy, you may face a number of complex lifestyle challenges. Your concerns may be about the health and hygiene issues of caring for yourself. But you'll also have emotional and psychological concerns.

It's vital to understand how to remove waste from the pouch and how keep the ostomy clean and infection-free. After the ostomy is done, your doctor and an ostomy nurse will take you through the process. You should learn the steps as soon as possible, so you'll know how to protect yourself. Regular waste removal, cleaning, and maintenance of the ostomy and ostomy pouch will help prevent accidents and embarrassment. This will also safeguard your health.

Emotional and psychological issues may be harder to deal with. Different people will react to the ostomy in different ways. Some people will do fine, but others may enter a phase of denial, in which they don't acknowledge its existence. Still others may become depressed. Joining a support group or online association of other people who have an ostomy can greatly relieve the isolation and unhappiness you may feel at first.

Although having an ostomy can be difficult to accept, it's important to work closely with your health care team. That way, your doctors and nurses can tell you about the changes happening to your body and how the ostomy will change (and not change) your daily life. When it comes to casual friendships and work relationships, people who undergo an ostomy may find that they don't need to tell many people about it. They just keep it to themselves. Depending on the closeness of individual relationships, you can choose what's appropriate to share and what not to share.

An ostomy is a medical need that may be hard to adjust to at first. With the help of support groups, counselors, and your primary health care team, you can make the transition to living with an ostomy and get back to a full, active life. 

 
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