What does an abnormal ostomy look like?

What does an abnormal ostomy look like?

Whether you're new to ostomy life or not, knowing what your ostomy should look like can help you to feel more in control & more knowledgeable. 

Knowing what is visibly normal and what isn't, as well as getting to know what feels normal is vital to adjusting to ostomy life.

What should your ostomy look like?

After ostomy surgery, your ostomy is likely to look swollen and you will normally be able to see it through a clear, drainable ostomy bag so that your surgeon, doctors and nurses can check your ostomy easily.

Your ostomy may also have stitches around it to hold it to the skin around your ostomy and these stitches are often dissolvable. Your ostomy may also be a dark red in colour, but should get lighter in colour as you recover. There may also be a small amount of blood and mucus in your bag and around your ostomy site. When cleaning your ostomy, in the initial post-operative recovery period, it may sting or hurt a little, but this should ease over time.

Close up of an ostomy bag on a baby

As you recover from surgery, your ostomy usually reduces in size and the swelling reduces and many describe their stoma as rose bud like, which resembles the inside of your mouth in colour and texture. It should be moist to the touch and shouldn't lead to any pain if touched, as your ostomy does not have nerve endings.

What signs could be indicative of an ostomy problem?

First of all, if you are worried about your ostomy or feel like something isn't right, it is always better to be safe than sorry & to consult a medical professional such as your stoma nurse.

Any of the following usually indicate that you should speak to a medical professional:

  • Swelling of your ostomy doesn't decrease in the weeks following surgery or your ostomy swells considerably at any time. 
  • Your ostomy is changing size frequently (more than half an inch) every day.
  • Your ostomy itself turns dark red, purple, or even black in colour.
  • Your ostomy is very pale in colour.
  • Your ostomy seems dry and is no longer moist or feels hard and/or cold to touch.
  • Your ostomy has spots, ulcers or any sign of other injury either on it or around it.
  • You have blood in your output or your ostomy itself is bleeding some what (a little on a tissue can be expected when cleaning your ostomy).
  • You have ongoing pain around or from your ostomy.
  • You experience a mucus or pus-like discharge.
  • You feel like your ostomy is being strangled by your ostomy bag.
  • Your ostomy feels tight & either no or restricted amounts of food are passing through, often accompanied with pain and gas.
  • Your ostomy bag doesn't fit properly or is needing to be changed more frequently.
  • There is a bulge around or behind your ostomy.
  • With an ileostomy specifically, you experience continued watery output, usually in higher volumes.
  • Your ostomy seems to be sinking back into your skin towards your abdomen or protruding somewhat, more so than normal.

A picture of an ostomy bag close up, being measured with an ostomy size guide


Disclaimer: As always, this post is from our Social Media & Marketing Specialist, Amy's, experience of living with a permanent ileostomy, Crohn's Disease and from what she has researched. Nothing in our blog posts should be taken as medical advice. It's always best to consult a medical professional if you have queries or concerns. 

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  • Amy

    Joyce – I would definitely get this checked out as soon as possible. A little bleeding is expected that usually is absorbed quickly by a tissue but it should never be to that extent you are describing. We are not medically qualified but from personal experience, I’d say get it checked asap.

    Sonia – Thank you so much for your comment! Our blogs are public so available to anyone. We do send blog updates out via our mailing list also so people know when a new one is published, and also on our main social media channels.

    Carole – We are not medically qualified to advise on this but what we will say is that the operation and success rate is obviously different for everyone and their individual circumstances, so it’s best to discuss this with your doctor.

  • Carole

    I have a parastomal hernia can anybody advise if an operation is successful
    Its sometimes difficult to put the pouch on

  • Sonia Kirwan

    Really clear, concise information given. Is this visible to everyone or do you have to be on mailing list.? I am admin on Dublin Stoma group & would love to share with some new ostomates.

  • Joyce Hardy

    I bleed around my stoma and have asked about ,to be told that’s normal ,use a power on it when changing but sometimes it bleeds a lot ,like running down on to the floor ,slippers etc ,is that ok ?

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