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What’s Causing Your Belly Button Discharge?

Overview

Dirt, bacteria, fungus, and other germs can get trapped inside your belly button and start to multiply. This can cause an infection. You might notice white, yellow, brown, or bloody discharge seeping out of your belly button. That discharge might also have an unpleasant smell. Here are a few of the causes of belly button discharge, and how to treat them.

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Causes

Causes

Causes of belly button discharge include infections, surgery, and cysts.

Bacterial infection

The average belly button is home to nearly 70 different types of bacteria. If you don’t clean the area well, these bacteria could cause an infection. Piercings in your navel can also get infected.

Bacterial infections cause a yellow or green, foul-smelling discharge. You can also have swelling, pain, and a scab around your belly button.

Read more: What to do with an infected belly button piercing »

Yeast infection

Candidiasis is a yeast infection caused by Candida, a type of yeast that typically grows in damp, dark areas of the body. It can occur between skin folds, such as in your groin area and under your arms. Yeast can also take up residence in your belly button, especially if you don’t keep it clean and dry.

Candidiasis in your belly button causes a red, itchy rash on your navel and may also cause a thick, white discharge.

Diabetes

People with diabetes are more likely to get yeast infections. This is because yeast feeds on sugar, and high blood sugar is a hallmark of poorly treated diabetes. A study of Brazilian woman showed that women with diabetes were more prone to vaginal yeast infections than women who didn’t have diabetes.

Other studies suggest that other forms of yeast infections, including yeast infections in the belly button, may be more common among people with diabetes.

Learn more: Can diabetes cause vaginal yeast infections? »

Surgery

If you’ve recently had abdominal surgery, such as hernia repair, you might notice pus draining from your belly button. If this happens, call your doctor. It could be a sign of an infection that needs to be treated.

Urachal cyst

When you were developing in your mother’s womb, your bladder was connected to the umbilical cord by a small tube called the urachus. This is how urine drained from your body. Usually the urachus closes up before birth, but sometimes it fails to close properly.

A fluid-filled growth called a cyst can form on the urachus. The cyst can get infected. One symptom of this infection is cloudy or bloody fluid leaking from your navel.

Other symptoms of urachal cysts include:

  • abdominal pain
  • fever
  • a lump in your abdomen
  • pain when you urinate

Sebaceous cyst

A sebaceous cyst is a bump that can form in your belly button, as well as on other parts of your body. It forms from the oil-releasing glands in your skin called sebaceous glands.

There may be a blackhead pimple in the center of the cyst. If the cyst is infected, a thick, yellow, and foul-smelling discharge will drain from it. The cyst might also be red and swollen.

See a doctor

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you have discharge. It could be a sign of infection, especially if you’ve recently had surgery. Other symptoms of an infection include:

  • fever
  • redness
  • tenderness in your abdomen
  • pain when you urinate
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Diagnosis

Diagnosis

Your doctor will examine your belly button. Looking at the area may be enough for them to diagnose the cause. Your doctor might also remove some of the discharge or cells from your belly button and send the sample to a lab. A technician will look at the cells or fluid under a microscope to see if you have an infection.

Treatment

Treatment

Treatment is determined by the cause of the discharge.

To treat an infection

Keep the skin of your belly button clean and dry. Use an antifungal powder or cream to clear up a yeast infection. You can also limit sugar in your diet. Yeast feeds on sugar.

For a bacterial infection, your doctor might recommend using an antibiotic ointment. If you have diabetes, work with your endocrinologist to make sure your blood sugar is well-controlled.

To treat a urachal cyst

Your doctor will first treat the infection with antibiotics. The cyst might need to be drained. Once the infection has cleared, treatment involves removing the cyst with laparoscopic surgery. Your doctor will perform this surgery through a small opening in your abdomen.

To treat a sebaceous cyst

Your doctor might inject medicine into the cyst to bring down swelling, or make a small cut in it and drain out the fluid. Another option is to remove the whole cyst with surgery or a laser.

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Outlook

Outlook

Your outlook depends on the cause of your belly button discharge and how well you care for it. See your doctor if you have any symptoms of infection, such as redness, swelling, and foul-smelling drainage. Get treated with an antibiotic or antifungal medicine to clear up the infection quickly.

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Prevention

Prevention tips

To keep your belly button healthy and prevent infections:

  • Wash daily with a mild antibacterial soap and water. Use your washcloth or sponge to get inside your belly button and clean out any dirt that’s inside. You can also use a saltwater solution to clean your belly button.
  • After you bathe, dry the inside of your navel completely.
  • Don’t put any creams or moisturizers inside your belly button. Cream can clog up the hole and encourage bacteria or yeast to grow.
  • Avoid tight clothes, which can irritate your belly button. Instead wear loose, comfortable clothes made from natural fibers like cotton and silk.
  • Avoid piercings in your belly button. If you do get a piercing, keep the area clean to prevent infection.
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