IBD (General)

How Do Stomas Work?

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While medical advancements have improved the management of IBD, some individuals may require surgical intervention, leading to the creation of stomas. Stomas play a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for individuals with IBD, offering a viable solution to manage the challenges associated with the disease. This article will explore the topic of stomas for those wanting to learn more.

Surgical Interventions in IBD

Despite progress in the improvement of medical therapies, some individuals with IBD may face complications or fail to respond well to medications. In such cases, surgical intervention becomes a good option to improve a patient’s quality of life. Common surgical procedures for IBD include bowel resections, colectomies, and the creation of stomas. 

Understanding Stomas

A stoma is a surgically created opening in the abdomen through which waste products can exit the body. Stomas can be temporary or permanent, and they serve different purposes based on the medical condition you live with. In the context of IBD, the creation of a stoma can be a life-changing solution to manage symptoms and improve overall well-being.

Types of Stomas in IBD:

  • Ileostomy:

    • An ileostomy involves creating a stoma from the small intestine, specifically the ileum.
    • This type of stoma is common in individuals with Crohn’s disease, particularly when the disease affects the colon or rectum.
    • Ileostomies result in the diversion of stool from the natural route, allowing the affected bowel to heal.
  • Colostomy:

    • In cases of severe ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease affecting the colon, a colostomy may be recommended.
    • This stoma is created from the colon, and it can be temporary or permanent, depending on the individual’s condition.
  • Ileoanal Reservoir (J-Pouch):

    • For some individuals with ulcerative colitis, a surgical procedure known as ileoanal reservoir or J-pouch may be performed.
    • This procedure involves removing the colon and creating a pouch from the small intestine, which is then connected to the anus, allowing for a more natural way of passing stool.

How do Stomas Work in IBD?

Diverting Waste Flow:

  • The primary function of stomas in IBD is to divert the flow of waste products away from the affected or inflamed parts of the digestive tract.
  • By rerouting the passage of stool or intestinal contents through the stoma, the damaged bowel has an opportunity to heal.

Resting the Affected Bowel:

    • Stomas provide a temporary or permanent rest for the affected bowel segment, reducing inflammation and allowing the surrounding tissues to recover.
    • This can significantly alleviate symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and bleeding.

Improving Nutrient Absorption:

      • In cases where malabsorption is a concern due to damaged portions of the digestive tract, stomas can help to enhance nutrient absorption.
      • Ileostomies, for example, bypass the colon, which is responsible for water absorption, potentially reducing diarrhoea and enhancing nutrient absorption.

Enhancing Quality of Life:

    • Stomas can contribute to a better quality of life by managing symptoms effectively, allowing individuals to engage in daily activities without the constant worry of unpredictable bowel movements.

Challenges and Adaptation

While stomas bring relief to many individuals with IBD, adapting to life with a stoma can present its own set of challenges. Physical, emotional, and lifestyle adjustments may be necessary. The mental load that comes with a significant physical change can be heavy. It’s important to seek out mental health support if you need it. You are not alone in your condition or experience, there are many people who live life with a stoma and with IBD.

Here are a few resources that may be helpful to you:

Ampersand’s Instagram Community to Connect with Others Article including more information on life with a stoma from CCUK A Personal Account of Stoma Surgery from CCUK
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