Arthritis with an Ostomy: Tips to Help Manage

arthritis with an ostomy

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

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

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.

Fibromyalgia

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

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

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

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

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

hollister new image two-piece ostomy pouch with integrated closureOpening 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.

arthritis compression gloves for those with arthritis with an ostomyMany 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

adjustable mirror to aid in changing an ostomy applianceArthritis 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.

Other Helpful Articles

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Having a Spinal Cord Injury and Regaining Independence

man in wheelchair smiling and raising his fist in success

A spinal cord injury is an often disabling medical condition caused by damage to the spinal cord or the nerves near the end of the spinal cord. Depending on the location of the injury on the spine, paralysis can occur in some if not all parts of the body. The higher the injury location on the spine, the more assistance a person most likely will need.

Becoming disabled after a spinal cord injury can truly be devastating. However, many individuals – even with high levels of paralysis, such as quadriplegics, go on to be extremely successful and productive members of society. Many also have relationships, including marriage and children.

Managing Life at Home After a Spinal Cord Injury

The biggest concern for anyone who has a spinal cord injury is how they will manage it. This thought happens most often in the early stages of their recovery. When I had my spinal cord injury, I couldn’t do much for myself either. After having a back fusion surgery where rods were surgically placed all the way down my spine, I had to wear a TSO cast that encased my entire upper torso. It gave time for the rods to fuse with my spine. During this time, I was under many restrictions, such as when I wasn’t wearing it, I had to remain in bed and could not even turn myself. After twelve weeks, I was completely free from wearing this cast, but I still couldn’t lift more than five pounds.

As much as I appreciated all this attention to detail, my biggest concern was that I had infant children. My youngest was a newborn who had never been less than five pounds. So, I had no choice but to hire help. It was the only way I was going to have any chance of working on myself. I hired a nanny to live with me to take care of the baby at night. During the day, they went to daycare.

I was in a rental wheelchair when I went home from rehab. I was also sleeping in a hospital bed until the orthopedic surgeon felt it was safe for me to sleep in my own bed. Before I had left rehab, I had hired a home health aid. She wasn’t trained in personal care, such as bladder and bowel incontinence, but she was willing to learn, so the rehab facility taught her. She helped me shower, take care of my bathroom needs at home, dressed me, and helped me into my wheelchair. Once I was in the wheelchair, I was at least mobile.

Then, I learned to drive. I received assistance from DARS, now known as Texas Workforce. They helped pay for the hand controls installed in my car and the lessons to learn how to drive a modified vehicle.

Going Back to Work After a Spinal Cord Injury

woman in a wheelchair working on a computerLater on, when I chose to go back to college, Texas Workforce helped pay for courses and books that I needed. When I got further education to write for teenagers and children, they continued to help me achieve my ultimate goal to be a full-time writer. I chose to work from home, so with their help, I had my office set up with adaptive equipment, including an ‘uplift desk.’ There was no excuse for me to not be productive, so I went to work.

Going back to work after my spinal cord injury was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself, along with learning to drive. The sense of independence I felt was heaven sent. Within months, my confidence as a writer grew. With continuous physical therapy, I also gained upper body strength to take care of my own needs.

I wasn’t shy about seeking psychological help either. I was grieving the loss of my legs and how my spinal cord injury affected my life after that. Everything changed for me, and I could either sink or swim.

Regaining Independence After My Spinal Cord Injury

After my youngest reached four years old, I let go of the nanny. That had been one of the many goals I had set for myself. So from that point on, I was taking care of my two children alone.

I’ve always said that life is about choices, but my thought process became warped when I had my injury. Eventually, I gained hope, which ultimately gave me the strength to keep moving forward. I went on to marry again and have another child. Through all of this, I have learned I needed no help this time around caring for my third child.

What I Learned on My Journey to Independence

group with disabilities from spinal cord injury sharing a beer and playing gamesWhat I have learned the most throughout my self-discovery journey is that there are some really nice people in the world. One of them I married, and the others are my closest friends. I also found that the more I do, the more respect I gain from those who don’t quite understand my disability from my spinal cord injury. However, what they see is a self-sufficient, strong, confident mother of three who happens to be in a wheelchair.

If you or someone you care for has a disability due to a spinal cord injury or any other medical condition, some of the mobility and adaptive equipment and incontinence products we carry may help in everyday life. For more resources, help to find support, and to read other’s stories, the United Spinal Association is a great place to start.

If you have any questions or need more information on the home delivery medical supplies we offer, our Product Experts are just a phone call away and ready to assist.

About the Author

Meena Dhanjal Outlaw

On January 23, 2000, Meena suffered a spinal cord injury that left her a T12 paraplegic. She worked hard to grow and push past adversity and challenges and even went back to school for a four-year diploma in writing for teenagers and children.

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