What Are the Most Common Ostomy Problems?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Most ostomy problems involve swelling, bleeding, or the development of a blockage. Infection is also common, especially if proper hygiene is not maintained. Symptoms that may indicate the presence of ostomy problems often include excessive intestinal gas, constipation, or diarrhea. Skin problems on or around the ostomy site may include swelling, bleeding, or tenderness. Treatment depends on the direct cause of the individualized ostomy problems and may include dietary changes, the use of medications, or surgical intervention.

Skin irritation and infection are common ostomy problems and should be reported to a doctor for further evaluation. Mild irritation is to be expected, but severe or unusual symptoms such as swelling, redness, or tenderness may indicate the presence of an infection, especially if fever accompanies these symptoms. Excessive or continuous bleeding could indicate the presence of a severe complication and should be reported to a doctor immediately. Continuous drainage from the ostomy site that lasts longer than a couple of hours should be brought to the attention of a doctor.

An intestinal blockage is among the most serious potential ostomy problems. Symptoms may include excessive gas, vomiting, or abdominal pain. Constipation, diarrhea, or alternating bouts of both may indicate the presence of a blockage. Without appropriate treatment, an intestinal blockage can be fatal. Additional surgery is almost always necessary to correct this issue, and the patient may need to spend several days in a hospital setting for close observation.


Treatment methods vary according to the individual ostomy problems. Proper hygiene may be able to help prevent skin irritation or infection in many cases. If an infection does occur, a combination of oral and topical antibiotics is usually quite effective. The doctor or other members of the medical staff can help the patient with any questions or concerns involving hygiene and proper care of the ostomy site if this seems to be a contributing factor.

Dietary changes can often help to prevent blockages and other ostomy problems relating to the digestive process. A diet high in fiber and increased water intake are generally recommended for those who have had ostomy surgery. Over-the-counter or prescription medications can help to control nausea, constipation, or diarrhea. In cases of severe ostomy problems, surgery is often necessary to correct any problems. Any questions or concerns about problems with the ostomy should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional on an individual basis.


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