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What Causes Belly Button Discharge & How To Treat It?

About Belly Button Discharge:

Belly Button is perhaps the most ignored area of the body that is after the birth of the baby. It is quite common for people to not observe or notice their belly buttons except for when they are showering or changing clothes. This is because for the majority of the part of this area is covered up. Additionally, they do not have any part to play in the functioning of the body. People do not think much about their belly button until they notice that something is not right with them. For example, they notice a foul odor coming from it or they see a discharge from the belly button [2].

It is common for dirt and debris to get accumulated in this indented area of the stomach. This is especially true if it is not kept clean. In addition, according to the physicians at University of Pittsburg Medical Center, this area contains around 70 different types of bacteria. In some cases, however, medical attention needs to be given especially if there is an infection developing in the belly button area or there is an observable lump or a cyst. This is when people can notice a discharge from the belly button. The fluid that comes out of the belly button is often foul smelling and tends to have different colors [2].

The treatment given for Belly Button Discharge depends on the underlying cause. However, physicians suggest that prevention is the best way to avoid such discharges and prevent the Belly Button from getting infected. There are a few factors which puts an individual at risk for having Belly Button Discharge. The most common among them is a history of surgery to the abdominal area [1].

Development of cysts in the Belly Button area is yet another potential cause for Belly Button Discharge. This article explains in detail the causes of Belly Button Discharge and ways to treat them [1].

What Causes Belly Button Discharge?

What Causes Belly Button Discharge?

The main causes of Belly Button Discharge include:

Bacterial and Fungal Infections: This perhaps is the most common cause of Belly Button Discharge as stated above. An infection in the Belly Button can develop as a result of bad hygiene. Keeping the belly button dirty allows the different kinds of bacteria and fungi present in them to multiply and cause infection. Piercing of the belly button, which is a common practice these days especially in teenagers and young adults, is one of the risk factors for Belly Button infection causing a discharge [1].

An open wound around the belly button area as a result of a trauma or an injury can also cause Belly Button infections. A bacterial infection in the belly button will cause a discharge that will be foul smelling. It will be yellow or green in color and there will also be swelling with pain in the area [1].

However, a fungal infection will have different types of symptoms. If candida is the offending fungus causing Belly Button Discharge then there will be also presence of rashes around the area. The area will be erythematous and the individual will have an itching sensation. The quality of the discharge will be thick and will be white in color [1].

Surgery: This is also one of the major causes for Belly Button Discharge. An individual with a history of an abdominal surgery will be at risk for developing Belly Button Discharge. If this is the case, then an evaluation with a physician is mandatory to explore the chances of an infection at the surgical site [1].

Cysts: These are benign growths that are normally filled with pus. This is another major cause for Belly Button Discharge. The cyst that causes this is termed as an urachal cyst. The urachus is the name given to the tube that connects the bladder of the fetus to the umbilical cord from where the waste products of the fetus are eliminated. In majority of the cases, this tube closes just before delivery of the baby; however, in some cases this does not close completely causing a cyst to form [1].

If this cyst gets infected then it may result in a cloudy discharge from the belly button. In addition to the discharge, the individual will also experience abdominal pain, fever, and painful urination. In some cases Belly Button Discharge can also be caused due to a sebaceous cyst [1].

This cyst develops when the sebaceous glands which release oil to the skin surface to keep it moist become clogged from debris. If this cyst gets infected, then it results in a yellowish discharge from the belly button. The cyst will be painful and erythematous and the discharge will have a bad odor to it [1].

Diabetes: This is perhaps the only medical condition that can cause Belly Button Discharge. This observation is based on research data. According to researchers there is a direct link between high blood sugar and candida infections. People with diabetes have high blood sugar. The candida eats this excess sugar and multiplies in the body. If the infection is present around the belly button then it causes discharge from that area [1].

It is vital for an individual with Belly Button Discharge to consult with a physician. A detailed evaluation will be done by the physician to identify a cause for the discharge and formulate a treatment plan. This will have to be done especially if there is accompanying fever, painful urination, pain in the abdominal muscles, erythema and tenderness around the belly button area. Once a cause is identified then treatment for Belly Button Discharge becomes easier [1].

How is Belly Button Discharge Treated?

Coming to treatments of Belly Button Discharge, it depends on the cause:

Infections: The frontline approach for treating infection that cause Belly Button Discharge is antibiotic or antifungal ointments based on the type of infection. These ointments or creams are available over-the-counter or a physician can prescribe them. In cases of a fungal or yeast infection, it is better to avoid sugary items as they thrive on sugar and may worsen the infection. This is especially for people with diabetes as they tend to persistently have high blood sugar levels [1].

Such people can work with their physicians on different ways to control blood sugar and take appropriate medication as prescribed by their physician. In case of an infection after a recent abdominal surgery is causing Belly Button Discharge then it is best to consult with the physician to get the surgical site evaluated and start treatment for the infection causing Belly Button Discharge [1].

Cysts: If a cyst infection is believed to be the cause of Belly Button Discharge, then more aggressive treatment approach is required. The first step towards treatment will be to identify the infection and start treatment for it. This is usually done with a course of antibiotics. Once the infection clears, then the cyst will have to be drained off completely [1].

Since there is a high chance of recurrence of the cyst until it is completely removed from its root, physicians sometimes recommend laser treatments for this purpose. This will more or less completely eradicate the cyst and the chances of the cyst coming back will be minimal after the procedure [1].

Preventing Belly Button Discharge

Belly Button Discharge is something that is completely preventable provided certain steps are followed diligently. These steps include [1]

  • Cleaning the area every day without fait with soap and water which can be done while showering.
  • Once cleaned, the area should be dried off completely with no moisture left since bacteria thrive in moist conditions.
  • Any accumulation of dirt, debris, or oils should be removed completely from the belly button region to prevent infection from settling in
  • Never scratch the belly button
  • Wear loose clothing around the waist to avoid moisture from collecting around the belly button area.
  • Never use creams or moisturizers in the belly button area unless prescribed by the physician since they can provide the best environment for bacteria to thrive in.

It is best to avoid belly button piercings if possible. However, if it cannot be done, then the jewelry should be taken out each day and cleaned thoroughly before putting it back on to prevent infections around the region resulting in Belly Button Discharge [1].

In conclusion, Belly Button Discharge is usually a sign of an infection. This can be bacterial or fungal. The symptoms however vary depending on the type of infection. Discharge due to a bacterial infection will be yellowish or green with a foul odor while discharge from a fungal infection will be white. Belly Button Discharge can also be caused as a complication from a recent abdominal surgery. This may be a sign of an internal infection that will need immediate consultation with a physician for treatment [1, 2].

In some cases, people tend to get Belly Button Discharge after belly piercings. Cysts are another major cause of Belly Button Discharge. Urachal cysts are the most common cysts that cause Belly Button Discharge, although sebaceous cysts also at times cause it. Diabetics are also at risk for Belly Button Discharge since they have high blood sugars and yeasts feed in these sugars and grow [1, 2].

The treatment for Belly Button Discharge depends on the cause of it. While antibiotics and antifungal creams and lotions are treatments for infections, a cyst will have to be drained to treat Belly Button Discharge. Practicing good hygiene and taking care of belly piercings are some of the ways to prevent discomfort caused by Belly Button Discharge [1, 2].


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 21, 2019

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