A colostomy bag is a type of pouching system for people who have undergone colostomy surgery. They need this pouch because they have had a colostomy due to:
- An injury
- Ulcerative colitisw
- Colon cancer
- Crohn’s disease
- Colorectal cancer
- Congenital conditions
- Other issues with their large intestine
An ostomate, or an individual who has had any of the three ostomy surgeries (colostomy, ileostomy, and urostomy), uses a colostomy bag to collect stool and protect the peristomal skin or skin around the stoma.
Types of colostomy bags
One-piece and two-piece pouching systems
An ostomy appliance comprises the skin barrier or flange that adheres to the skin and protects the stoma and the pouch that collects the stool. When choosing a colostomy bag, you have the option of using either a one-piece or two-piece system.
In a one-piece pouch, the skin barrier and pouch are attached. This may add a sense of security that the bag won’t come apart. A two-piece system is one in which the skin barrier and pouch are separate, allowing you to change the pouch as frequently as you want without having to replace or remove the skin barrier.
Closed and click drainable pouches
A closed pouch is a single-use type of ostomy bag. When the bag is full, you can dispose of it right away. This type of bag can be used by ostomates who do not have to change pouches often during the day, including those with firm stools. Some prefer this system when traveling and swimming as well as during intimate moments.
On the other hand, a click drainable pouch has an opening at the bottom so you can easily empty it without having to remove anything. The pouch can stay in place for two to three days before you need to replace it. This bag can be used by those who have liquid stools and need to empty the pouch several times a day. To secure the opening of a drainable pouch and keep the bag odor-free, a clip or Velcro-type closure is used.
Sizes and colors
Colostomy bags come in various sizes and styles. Larger bags, e.g. 650 ml, can be used overnight to avoid leakage, while smaller bags, e.g. 400 ml, can be used during the day, when you can change them as often as needed. Here are some examples of small colostomy bags:
- Mini pouch
This bag can either be a one-piece or two-piece system, but it is designed to be used for only a short period of time. Individuals who want their pouches to be as hidden or discreet as possible for an event or activity may want to try using this to avoid feeling self-conscious.
- Stoma cap
Like mini pouches, stoma caps are intended for short-time use only. Because they can only hold a small amount of waste, they are most compatible with people who have a predictable fecal output. Ostomates who have an active lifestyle can try this product when doing physical activities.
Pouches can also be transparent or opaque. You may choose from the different skin tones and colors available that reflect your personal preference and style.
Ostomy supplies and accessories
There is a wide selection of ostomy supplies that are designed to make daily life easier, from helping you dry the peristomal skin faster to keeping your pouch odor-free. Here are just a few items you might want to explore:
- Stoma paste – Helps the skin barrier or flange adhere better to the abdomen.
- Stoma powder – Helps dry the peristomal skin, especially if it’s inflamed or has sores.
- Belt or wrap – Helps secure the colostomy bag, avoiding unnecessary shifting or movement.
- Ostomy bag cover – A pouch cover is usually made of a fabric with different patterns and styles that aims to reduce the itching and discomfort some people feel when their colostomy bags directly touch their skin.
- Adhesive remover – Helps remove any residue from your old skin barrier and pouch and keeps your peristomal skin clean and ready for the next pouch. An adhesive remover may come as a spray or wipe.
- Deodorant – Helps eliminate any odor and is available in drops, which you can add directly to the pouch.
Choosing the best colostomy bag for you
There are many pouching options on the market. That’s why it’s recommended to observe the factors that could affect your colostomy experience and quality of life. To discover the best bag for you, here are some points you can consider:
Since colostomy bags can vary by function, you can pick a pouch depending on your daily activities. For example: if you engage in sports or regular exercise, a mini colostomy bag might be what you’re looking for. But if you’re always on the go and don’t have the time to frequently change your pouch, a bigger and longer-lasting bag may fit you better.
- Colostomy location
The section of the colon where the colostomy was made is also an important factor in choosing a bag because it determines the rate of bowel movement as well as the volume and consistency of the feces. Try to select a bag that can handle your output. If the colostomy was made in the lower colon, then the stool may be formed or semi-formed, whereas the stool is typically looser if the colostomy was made in the upper colon.
Another factor you should consider is comfort. It’s important to select a bag based on your convenience and confidence in wearing it. If a pouch doesn’t fit your taste, you can try using other types until you find the one you’re most comfortable with.
If you’re still unsure of which bag works for you, it’s best to consult ostomy supplies professionals or a certified ostomy nurse. They can assist you in choosing a pouch by assessing your specific needs and even give tips on caring for your colostomy bag. Keep in mind, it may take a while to determine the best system for you. It may require a lot of trial and error.
Living with a colostomy bag
As an ostomate, keeping your appliance secure at all times is important to avoid problems such as leakage and unpleasant odor. One way of doing this is to get professional advice before doing certain physical activities and proceed with caution when doing it. It’s also normal to take several trips to the washroom every day to make sure everything is intact.
It can also help to note what a good colostomy bag should do, such as:
1. Not leak
2. Not emit any odor
3. Lie flat on the body and feel comfortable when worn
4. Give you the freedom to move and do what you love
Regardless of the type, size, or manufacturer of a colostomy bag, it should be emptied once it is 1/3 full. This is to avoid any leakage that might be caused by the bag getting heavier and looser as it fills up.
Join a colostomy support group and community
There are many organizations and groups you can approach if you want to share your experiences and receive advice from individuals and families who are going through the same things. One such community is Better Health, which not only provides assistance, support, and services but also a wide range of medical and ostomy supplies. For more information about what Better Health does, please visit https://joinbetter.com/.