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Regardless of our age or physical condition, as long as we are living, everyone’s body must be able to handle the expulsion of waste. For some the physical demands of waste management (movement to and sitting on a toilet, wiping, washing hands) are challenging enough. Still others are faced with even greater medical problems from the body’s waste systems; bladder or bowel cancer, severe Crohn’s Disease, an obstruction of some type. In these cases, surgical steps must be taken to ensure waste can effectively be eliminated from the body. This typically results in the introduction of a stoma to the patient’s body.


A stoma is a surgically created valve in the abdomen designed to move waste out of the body. Usually pink or reddish in color, it is typically made from a portion of the patient’s intestine or urinary tract. It drains into a bag called an ostomy which adheres to the patient’s skin and can be emptied through a valve mechanism. Depending on the waste to be expelled, the stoma is attached to either a person’s digestive system (colostomy) or urinary tract (urostomy).


Because of the nature of waste and the bacteria that accompanies it, proper hygiene and care of the stoma and ostomy is essential. Replacing the ostomy bag every 3-4 days and cleaning the skin around the ostomy will help keep the skin healthy and reduce complications. It is important to maintain a proper level of food and fluid intake to keep your body and synthetic waste system healthy. Do not eat or drink less! You do not need to change your diet because of a colostomy and should in fact drink more liquid with a urostomy to stay hydrated and minimize the effects of bacteria.


It is estimated that nearly 500,000 people (ages 1 to 100!) in the United States have an ostomy at any given time. While many of these are permanent, some can be temporary and reversed with surgery. The ostomy bag lies flat enough against the patient’s waist that few, if any, will know a person has an ostomy unless that person chooses to tell them. ‘Ostomates’ are capable of being active and performing any task that their body would otherwise allow them to do. This includes bathing, showering, exercising, and even swimming. The ostomy itself should not interfere with one’s sex life though there may be a period of adjustment. Being open and honest with a partner can help dispel any concerns they may have.


One thing is certain; as long as you have a stoma and ostomy, you will need a regular supply of bags for the body and overnight bags for collection while sleeping. Burlington Health Care is here to assist you! As Northern Kentucky’s healthcare supply provider, our professionals will make sure you and your family have the knowledge and supplies you need to manage any and all medical challenges you encounter.