Why does my belly button smell?

Why does my belly button smell?

A smelly belly button can arise due to many causes, ranging from lack of personal hygiene to bacterial infections. Outward facing belly buttons or ‘outies’ are less vulnerable to developing infections than ‘innies’ or inward facing belly buttons.

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Causes of a smelly belly button

Some of the common causes for a belly button to smell are listed below:

  • Bacterial overgrowth: The belly button is an ideal place for accumulation of dirt and oil, thereby providing the right environment for bacteria to grow and thrive. Bacterial overgrowth is what leads to a characteristic, bad smell emanating from the belly button.
  • Candidiasis:It is a skin condition caused due to infection by candida albicans, a microorganism naturally occurring on human skin. It usually does not cause any harm and often remains unnoticeable. Overgrowth of the organism can however result in a smelly belly button laced with white patches which look like milky-yogurt or cottage cheese. The pathogen grows uncontrollably and quickly, causing inflammation and pain. People with a weakened immune system are more susceptible; the infection can prove life-threatening if it reaches the ear or the bloodstream.
  • Sepsis: Nowadays, piercing the belly button has become a trendy thing. A pierced belly button may be very fashionable, but a bleeding piercing is very vulnerable to infections by different germs. When an infected belly button releases a ‘smelly’ discharge, the condition is referred to as sepsis-septicemia.
  • Urachal cyst: A cyst which forms on the persistent section of the urachus is called a urachal cyst. It typically develops when the belly button is not washed or cleaned on a daily basis. With time, the cyst can result in formation of abscess full of WBCs and pus. In addition to a smelly belly button, patients may suffer from elevated body temperatures and abdominal pain. The cyst will eventually rupture and discharge a liquid with a putrid odor.
  • Sebaceous cyst: This kind of cyst is not as serious; but it can cause itchiness and abrasion of the belly button and ultimately result in putrid-smelling discharge from the area.
  • Fungal infections: It is a rare cause of smelly belly button. Patients may also experience intense itchiness, pain, and burning sensations.
  • Increased exposure to UV light: It is a known fact that overexposure to UV rays is harmful and bad for the skin. It can also increase the risk to infections of the belly button. Smelly navel infections can arise due to sunbathing, swimming excursions during summers, and natural skin tanning, etc. Affected people may suffer from curd-like smelly discharge from the belly button.
  • Body shape: Individuals with a fat belly are at greater risk to developing smelly belly button infections. A protruding belly expands the hollow nature of the belly button, which in turn offers ideal conditions for accumulation of moisture and dirt. This can result in damage of the navel tissues and cells, thereby causing smelly infections of the belly button.
  • Diabetes: Diabetic patients are prone to infections, including that of the belly button. Belly button thrush is a common ailment amongst patients. The disease also prevents rapid or easy healing of the infections. Diabeticswith belly button infections may suffer from bad smell emanating from the belly button, as well as oozing of cheese-like fluids.
  • Dirt/debris: Buildup of skin debris or dirt within the belly button can irritate the skin, thereby facilitating the onset of smelly infections.
  • Skin conditions: Varied skin conditions can also cause a belly button to smell, as well as facilitate the growth of bacteria. Skin disorders like eczema can produce dead skin cells which later flake off and jam the belly button. This expedites the buildup of oils and bacteria in the area leading to a smelly belly button.
  • Inflammation: If the skin adjacent to the belly button is inflamed, then it can get infected by anaerobic bacteria, gather pus, and give out a bad smell.


Listed below are some treatment options for a smelly belly button:

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  • Wash the belly button on a daily basis, preferably using an antibacterial soap. Ensure that the soap and water are completely rinsed off and the belly button is dry.
  • Scratching to alleviate the itchiness of a smelly belly button can inflame the skin and aggravate the condition. Use an ice cube on the belly button to ease itchiness. Apply plain yogurt on yeast infections to alleviate itching. Avoid using coarse or unnatural fabrics that may irritate the skin.
  • Dry the skin by cleaning the belly button with a Q-tip dipped in saline water. People prone to excessive perspiration of the belly button can apply talcum powder on it.
  • Infection of a belly button piercing requires the attention of a professional who will take out the jewelry. Later, visit a doctor for relevant medications.
  • Thrush of the belly button is treated with topical antifungal medications, while antibiotics are prescribed by a doctor for treating bacterial infections.
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