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Complications

There are a number of possible problems you may experience after having a colostomy.

Rectal discharge

If you've had a colostomy but your rectum and anus are intact, you may have some mucus discharge from your bottom. Mucus is produced by the lining of the bowel to help the passage of stools.

The lining of the bowel continues producing mucus, even though it no longer serves any purpose. The longer the remaining section of your bowel, the more likely you are to have rectal discharge.

The mucus can vary, from a clear "egg white" to a sticky, glue-like consistency. It can either leak out of your bottom or build up into a ball, which can become uncomfortable.

Some people have rectal discharge every few weeks, while others have several episodes a day.

Contact your GP if there's blood or pus in the discharge – it may be a sign of infection or tissue damage.

Managing the discharge

You may find it helps if you sit on the toilet every day and push down as if passing a stool. This should remove any mucus and stop it building into a ball.

But some people find this difficult because surgery can reduce the sensation in the rectum. Contact your GP if this is the case, as you may need further treatment.

Glycerine suppositories that you insert into your bottom can often help. When the capsules dissolve, they make the mucus more watery, so it's easier to get rid of.

The mucus can sometimes irritate the skin around your bottom. Using a barrier skin cream should help. You may need to try a few before you find one that works for you. Ask your pharmacist for advice.

Some people find that eating certain foods increases mucus production. While there's no scientific evidence to support this, you may want to try keeping a food diary for a few weeks to see whether certain foods could be linked to an increase in mucus production.

Parastomal hernia

A parastomal hernia is where the intestines push through the muscles around the stoma, resulting in a noticeable bulge under the skin.

To reduce your risk of getting a parastomal hernia:

A parastomal hernia isn't usually painful, but it may be more difficult to hold the colostomy appliance in place and change it.

Most hernias can be managed with the help and support of your stoma nurse. In some cases, surgery may be needed to repair the hernia. But the hernia can come back, even after surgery. 

Stoma blockage

Some people develop a blockage in their stoma as the result of a build-up of food.

Signs of a blockage include:

If you think your stoma is blocked, you should:

When to get medical help 

After trying these steps, if there's no improvement within two hours, you should contact your GP or stoma nurse immediately as there's a risk your colon could burst.

Or go to your nearest local accident and emergency (A&E) department.

Preventing a blockage

To reduce your risk of developing a stoma blockage:

Also, avoid eating foods known to cause blockages, such as corn, celery, popcorn, nuts, coleslaw, coconut macaroons, grapefruit, dried fruit, potato skins, apple skins, orange pith, and Chinese vegetables like bamboo shoots and water chestnuts.

Other complications

Other problems you can have after a colostomy include: