Many suffer from foul odor from body folds—the belly button is an area containing small folds within that may emit a foul odor.
Bacteria and yeast may live within these small folds and release chemicals that are responsible for the body odor. Staphyloccocus and streptococcus bacteria are among the most common bacteria skin infections overall.
Treatment with topical antibacterial ointments and bleach baths 2-3 times weekly may help decolonize the small folds from these types of bacterial infections.
Active infections with painful redness of the belly button and a strong malodor (bad odor) are signs that further evaluation by a dermatologist is warranted. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed in addition to topical antibacterial treatment.
Fungal infections, specifically candidiasis, may harbor in the smaller folds within the belly button. Topical and/or oral antifungal medications may be prescribed in the treatment of poorly controlled fungal infections.
Other reasons that the belly button may have an odor is due to small cysts within the belly button. A urachal cyst is a specific type of cyst that may be found in the umbilical region—it is a sinus remaining during embryonic development which normally disappears prior to birth. Typically, these types of cysts are harmless unless there are complications (i.e. infection).
Sebaceous cysts may occur within the belly button and can frequently drain causing pain and a foul odor. Using warm compresses, gently cleaning the area with soapy water and applying topical antibacterial ointments may be helpful. Consultation with a provider is necessary when the drainage is persistent, painful, swelling and does not remit with warm compresses.
Piercings in the belly button area if not performed with sterile materials may lead to an infection of the belly button. Having a belly button infection typically requires oral antibiotics and individuals should seek medical care by a dermatologist.
Another reason for a belly button infection after piercing occurs in those with an active dermatitis, rash, open wound in the belly button area prior to piercing. Such conditions promote a compromised skin barrier whereby inserting a foreign material may further promote skin infections, most commonly bacterial.
Those at-risk for skin infections:
Diabetics are more susceptible to fungal or yeast nail infections which leads to a fluffy white, yellow malodorous discharge from the belly button and possibly other skin folds. Treatment of fungal infections is diabetics is of the upmost importance as poorly controlled fungal infections in diabetics may spread as diabetics have a compromised immune response. Counseling regarding maintaining healthy skin hygiene and better control of blood sugars are two preventative mechanisms in this cohort of patients.
Disclaimer: *Discussion with a board-certified dermatologist is recommended for further evaluation of belly button odor*