What is the Peristomal Skin?
When living with an ostomy, it is important to monitor and take care of the skin around your stoma. This area is called peristomal skin and often skin-related issues around this area may go unnoticed. Knowing how to identify irritated skin around your stoma early, as well as maintaining healthy skin in this area could help avoid greater complications and make for a stress-free experience with your ostomy.
Below are answers to some common questions around the well-being of your peristomal skin:
Why is it important to maintain healthy peristomal skin?
Like skin elsewhere on your body, if it becomes damaged, it can be painful and lead to infections. The skin around your stoma is no different. Furthermore, damage to the peristomal skin can make it more difficult for the skin barrier of your pouching system to adhere to the skin.
What are common causes of peristomal skin damage?
- Leakage: Healthy skin exposed to fecal or urine output under the skin barrier can breakdown fast.
- Pressure: Belts and some clothing may cause pressure on the stoma area.
- Stoma size: Ensure the skin barrier is cut to the right size. It should always fit closely around your stoma (1-2mm larger) to protect against leakage.
- Skin folds or creases may prevent the skin barrier from sticking securely to your stomach and can result in leakages. A different shaped product may be required if your stoma is flush or retracted.
- Skin stripping or friction by removing an skin barrier too quickly can pull the top layers of skin away. The more frequent it happens, the more the skin can be irritated.
- Pouching system: If the red or irritated area of the skin is the same shape as the skin barrier, you may have developed an allergy or sensitivity.
What should healthy peristomal skin look and feel like?
Peristomal skin should look and feel no different than the skin on the rest of your stomach. Have a look at the below images of what healthy peristomal skin and irritated skin may look like.
The skin around the stoma looks red and irritated, what should I do?
Contact your STN or healthcare professional. Peristomal skin complications are one of the most common reasons why ostomates seek medical attention.
Common signs of peristomal skin issues:
- Itchy and sore skin underneath your pouching system
- A moist, warm or wet peristomal skin appearance
- Pink, red or inflamed appearance
- Blistering and/or weeping
How to scale peristomal skin problems:
It’s important to know, not everyone experiences problems with the skin around their stoma. But your skin health can change over a very short period, if not regularly checked. All the examples shown below of irritated skin can be addressed.
Some skin problems do not go away on their own and require further investigation. So even if you are experiencing minor or mild irritation, please seek advice from your STN or healthcare professional.