Living with an ostomy already has its challenges. However, suffering from arthritis with an ostomy can increase the difficulty of specific tasks such as opening tubes of stoma paste, stiffness when bending over to empty the ostomy appliance, or using scissors for a cut-to-fit ostomy barrier. Having arthritis with an ostomy doesn’t have to mean a total loss of independence. Take a look at some helpful tips for managing these conditions below.
Types of Arthritis & Other Conditions That May Affect Hand Dexterity
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects a person’s immune system and attacks their tissues. The feeling often experienced is a burning pain accompanied by swelling and sometimes stiffness in the joints, particularly in the hands, shoulders, knees, and feet. Many also report feeling fatigued throughout the day.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Due to the cells’ changes as we age, osteoarthritis develops between the ages of 45-90 years. The cartilage in the fingers and weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, back, and feet are affected. Pain, stiff joints, and swelling are also a symptom of osteoarthritis.
While fibromyalgia is not a type of arthritis, it can co-occur with other types of arthritis. Fibromyalgia is a type of chronic pain syndrome that can cause immense fatigue and pain in muscles, joints, and other soft tissues. It has no known cause or cure at this time. However, research indicates it may be related to genetics (family history), having coexisting conditions such as arthritis or lupus, going through prolonged stress or trauma, or having a viral illness. The pain from fibromyalgia can range from mild to severe and include stiffness, burning, throbbing, or stabbing sensations in the muscles. Fatigue, depression, anxiety, numbness, tingling, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and cystitis have been reported.
Gout occurs when uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints and cause inflammation. The body breaks down proteins, which then form this uric acid. Gout usually affects one joint at a time, especially in the big toes. The ankles, knees, hands, wrists, and elbows are other joints that can be affected. Common symptoms of gout include pain, warmth, redness, and swelling. Most gout onsets occur quickly and can remain for up to a week if left untreated. Excess alcohol consumption, being overweight, water pills, surgery, or sudden illness are just some of the things that can trigger and aggravate gout.
Reiter’s Syndrome is a type of arthritis that occurs as a reaction to an infection somewhere else in the body. It may be related to intestinal infections such as Salmonella or urinary tract infections. Reiter’s Syndrome’s symptoms can include inflammation of the joints, tendons, eyes, urinary tract, or skin and may involve a rash or fever.
Scleroderma involves a thickening of the skin on the fingers, arms, and sometimes the face. There are often color changes in the hands from pale blue to red, small calcium deposits that form nodules on the fingertips, and stiffness in the joints with these indicators. Indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation can also be other symptoms.
Enteropathic arthritis often accompanies inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Painful, hot, and stiff joints are common symptoms of enteropathic arthritis, and when the gastrointestinal disease goes into remission, the arthritic symptoms go along with it.
Tips if You Have Arthritis with an Ostomy
Arthritis in the Hands
Opening packets of an ostomy product such as stoma paste, peeling off backing papers, and cutting holes in skin barriers can be challenging for those with arthritis in their hands. Many manufacturers have noticed this problem that those with arthritis and an ostomy face and have made some adjustments to their packaging.
ConvaTec has Moldable Technology that eliminates the need for scissors to customize the hole around the stoma. There is a helpful and informative article at the end of this blog that goes into detail about ConvaTec Moldable Technology. ConvaTec also offers many pre-cut barrier options, such as the ConvaTec Esteem + One-Piece Pre-Cut Closed-End Pouch, which can help.
Many drainable ostomy bags feature integrated closures instead of clips. The Hollister New Image Pouch has an easy Lock N Roll Microseal closure that is excellent for those with dexterity problems.
Tubes of ostomy paste, such as the Hollister Adapt Paste, come in a soft tube that you can use a credit card or paste dispenser to glide the formula out easily.
Having a pair of arthritis compression gloves can also be very helpful. Not only will they help keep a better grip on items, but these gloves may also help increase circulation and reduce pain.
Arthritis in the Neck and Back
Arthritis in the neck and back can cause stiffness, and bending over to view the stoma when changing your appliance may be difficult. A suggestion to help make this a bit easier may be to sit down and lean back somewhere comfortable with a desk or table in front or beside you. Place a mirror on the table and face it down toward your ostomy appliance. A mirror that easily adjusts to all angles would work best.
Stiffness Getting On and Off the Toilet
Railings can be installed around the toilet to help stabilize yourself when emptying your ostomy bag. Another option that might be helpful when getting on and off the toilet and entering and exiting the bathtub is a transfer bench. This adaptive equipment piece works as an added safety feature to allow those with arthritis with an ostomy to take their time when sitting and rising to stand up.
Using Adaptive Equipment and Experiencing Leaks
If you are using a wheelchair or a walker, these types of adaptive equipment require the use of both hands. A leaking ostomy appliance while using one of these kinds of devices requires at least one hand to minimize the leakage. Preparing emergency supplies in a bag attached to the wheelchair or walker can be a possible solution to this problem. Having emergency ostomy supplies around the home can also alleviate some stress knowing that your needed supplies are nearby.
There are many other aids for those who have arthritis with an ostomy and can be found at your local pharmacy. Items such as easy-open pill bottles, grippers to unscrew lids, push-button pill reminder boxes, and more can be beneficial aids. You can reach out to a local occupational therapist or your local hospital for more information about where to find products made to help those with arthritis accomplish tasks more manageable.
Maintaining independence is essential to self-esteem, but remember to ask for help when you need it. The last thing you need when suffering from arthritis with an ostomy is having an accident that can potentially worsen your condition.
For even more information about arthritis, ease of use products, treatments, hundreds of articles, and even a drug guide, visit the Arthritis Foundation. You can even click to find your local area and connect.
For any inquiries about ostomy appliances, adaptive equipment, or any other home delivery medical supplies we carry at Personally Delivered, our Product Experts are just a phone call away and ready to help.