ATTENTION: Answers to Customer’s Frequently Asked Questions on COVID-19Read More

What is an ostomy?

Understanding how the human digestive system works may help you better manage your ostomy and stoma care.


Your gastrointestinal system is where the following takes place in your body:

  • Digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Storage and elimination of fecal waste


Here’s what happens in the human digestive system:


Digestion begins in your mouth as you chew food. After it is swallowed, food passes through your esophagus and enters your stomach, where digestion continues. Partially digested food moves into the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed. The remaining undigested portion solidifies and is reabsorbed in the large intestine. Stool is passed to the rectum, where it’s stored until excreted through the anus.


Here’s how the urinary tract works:


The urinary tract is composed of:

  • Kidneys
  • Ureters
  • Bladder
  • Urethra


The kidneys (two bean-shaped organs located just below your ribs and toward your back) produce urine by filtering water and harmful waste from the blood. Urine drains from the kidneys through two small tubes (called ureters) into the bladder. When the bladder becomes full and you’re ready to urinate, the urethra relaxes and urine passes out of the body.


If you’re diagnosed with a digestive system disease, your health care provider may recommend a surgical procedure called an ostomy.


When such a disease occurs, the digestive system no longer works properly. During surgery, your health care provider will create an opening in the abdomen through which a portion of the urinary system (urostomy), small intestine (ileostomy) or large intestine (colostomy) is brought to the surface of the skin. This opening is called a stoma.


What is a stoma?

A stoma is the end portion of the urinary system, ileum (small intestine) or colon (large intestine) protruding through the abdominal wall after an ostomy surgery. The stoma is red in color, shiny and moist, similar in appearance to the lining on the inside of your cheeks.


What is a stoma shaped like and how does it feel?

Stoma shapes are as individual as belly buttons – no two are exactly the same. A stoma is usually round or oval and varies in size. After surgery, the stoma will appear swollen, but this swelling will gradually go down. During this time, it’s necessary to frequently measure your stoma, to make sure the pouching system fits correctly.


Some people with ostomies find that if their stoma is flush to the skin, a convex pouch can help them get a better fit. A stoma doesn’t have nerve endings, so you won’t feel any pain when you touch it or attach the pouching system. If you do experience any pain associated with your stoma or your ostomy case, contact your health care provider.


Related articles:
Deciding on an ostomy pouching system
Ostomy care at work
Preventing ostomy pouch leaks