Avoiding and managing urostomy problems

Severe skin problems

Large areas of skin that are red, sore, and weeping (always wet) will keep you from getting a good seal around your stoma. It’s important to treat minor irritations right away. If you have a large irritated area that doesn’t go away in a few days, or crusty skin around the stoma (called encrustation), contact your doctor or ostomy nurse. They may prescribe medicine to help dry out and heal your skin.

For deep pressure ulcers caused by a very tight ostomy belt, loosen or remove the belt and call your doctor or ostomy nurse right away. You will need treatment.

Remember that a well-fitted pouching system, drinking enough fluids, and good skin care, can help prevent problems.

Urinary crystals

Urinary crystals on the stoma or skin are caused by alkaline urine. The crystals look like white, gritty particles. They may lead to stoma irritation and/or bleeding. Proper cleaning, keeping your urine acidic, and careful fitting of the skin barrier will help prevent urinary crystals.

To help reduce urinary crystals, you can make a vinegar compress and apply it to the stoma for a few minutes when the pouch is changed. To do this, soak a bath cloth or small towel in a mixture of equal parts of water and white vinegar and hold the moist cloth on the stoma.

When you should call the doctor

You should call the doctor or ostomy nurse if you have:

  • A cut in the stoma
  • Injury to the stoma
  • A lot of bleeding from the stoma opening (or a moderate amount in the pouch that you notice several times when emptying it)
  • Bleeding where the stoma meets the skin
  • Bad skin irritation or deep sores (ulcers)
  • An unusual change in your stoma size or color
  • Fever or strong urine odor (may be a sign of a kidney infection)

In its original form this document was written by the United Ostomy Association, Inc. (1962-2005) and reviewed by Jan Clark, RNET, CWOCN and Peg Grover, RNET. It has since been modified and updated by:

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: December 2, 2014 Last Revised: December 2, 2014

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