What to Do If Your Colostomy Bag Is Leaking

What to Do If Your Colostomy Bag Is Leaking
What to Do If Your Colostomy Bag Is Leaking

Leaking is a frequent issue that colostomy bag users face.

Stomas are abdominal openings that let urine or stool accumulate in pouches outside of the body. Ostomy surgery is the procedure used by doctors to create this hole.

In the US, about 100,000 ostomy procedures are carried out per year.

Your big intestines transfer stool to a colostomy bag when you have a colostomy stoma kind of stoma. Colostomy bags are most frequently prescribed to patients who have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or bowel cancer.

Many things can cause your bag to leak, including allowing it to get too full or causing the skin around your stomach to deteriorate. Replace the bag immediately if you see a leak to prevent skin irritation.

Continue reading to find out what to do if your colostomy bag is dripping and what might be causing it.

How can you tell if your colostomy bag is leaking?

According to research, anywhere between 17% and 87% of patients have reported having a colostomy bag leak. More than 54,000 persons with stomas from 17 different countries were interviewed for the Ostomy Life Study 2019 by researchers. 76% of those who responded said they experience leaks at least once a month.

91% of participants in an earlier iteration of the Ostomy Life Study said they worried about leaking.

If there is a leak, you might smell something unpleasant coming from your colostomy bag. Since virtually all contemporary pouches include a charcoal filter to lessen odour brought on by gas, your coloscopy bag should typically not produce any smells.

Stoma output that is visible on your skin or the backplate may potentially be caused by leaking.

You could develop skin issues around your stoma if you have persistent leakages, such as:
  • small bump
  • thickened patches of skin
  • skin soreness
  • skin irritation
  • itchiness

Why is my colostomy bag leaking?

Several factors can cause your colostomy bag to leak:
  • improper use of an ostomy during surgery
  • colostomy bag's inadequate fit on the stoma
  • inflamed or damp skin that compromises the barrier between your skin and the bag
  • absence of stoma protrusion over the skin, which could allow stool to breach the seal
  • wearing a coloscopy bag without changing it for too long
  • The colostomy bag is too full.
  • the bag expanding as a result of trapped gas

Risk factors

The following are risk factors for developing leakage:
  • undergoing urgent ostomy surgery
  • not being confident enough to speak with your doctor about issues
  • any diagnosis outside of bowel cancer
  • increased body mass index (BMI)
About four times as many women as men report leaks. The danger of leaking is higher with one-piece ostomy bags than with two-piece ones.

What to do when your colostomy bag keeps leaking

To prevent irritation, it's crucial to take off the bag and wash your skin if you experience a leak. The bag can be washed under running water and checked for physical damage.

If you experience leaks, especially if they persist, it's crucial to see a doctor.

Stoma leakage prevention

Stoma leaking could be avoided by:
  • use an ostomy belt to provide further support
  • If your stoma is level or below your skin, consult your doctor as they can suggest switching from a standard to a convex barrier.
  • frequently measuring your stoma (the size of your stoma may alter in the weeks following surgery)
  • putting the adhesive skin barrier to your dry, clean, and freshly shaved skin
  • If you experience any skin concerns surrounding the stoma, consult your doctor.
  • regularly emptying your pouch
  • Have a conversation with your doctor about dietary modifications to minimise gas
  • utilising a pouch lubricant helps prevent pancaking, which happens when the pouch's sides cling to one another and obstruct the flow of fluid
  • ensuring that none of your goods are tainted or outdated

When to contact your doctor

If you experience a leak, it's a good idea to speak with your doctor so you can determine what's causing it. According to research, those who are more eager to report issues tend to do better.


Leakage is a frequent issue for those who use colostomy bags. A leak could result in an unpleasant odour and skin irritation near your stoma.

Leaks must be reported to your doctor for the root cause to be found and treated effectively. Overfilling your colostomy bag, having it fit incorrectly, or wearing your colostomy bag for an extended time without changing it are some of the most frequent reasons for leaks.


Is it normal for a colostomy bag to leak?

Leaking is a common problem that affects people with colostomy bags.

Can you sleep in your stoma bag?

Sleeping on either side of your body is fine.

Can I take a bath with a colostomy bag?

Regular bathing shouldn't affect how securely and adherently your pouching system is in place. 

Can a stoma burst?

There may be an increased risk of spontaneous rupture and evisceration in patients with long-standing ostomy-related problems such as parastomal hernia and stoma prolapse.

Can you wash the stoma with water?

Water does not harm the stoma.

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