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Rash around Belly Button: Common Causes and Treatment

Updated on February 7, 2017
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Sree trained in dentistry and is currently pursuing lab sciences. She loves researching and sharing information on various health topics.

The belly button, or navel, is the part of the umbilical cord that is left after a baby is born. There are certain circumstances and medical conditions that cause a rash around belly button, which may bring about itchiness, discomfort, and other symptoms. What are these causes?

Causes of Rash around Belly Button
There are many possible causes for a rash around the navel, including various infections, environmental factors, poor hygiene practices, or physical trauma. Some medical conditions, such as umbilical hernia, can also lead to having a rash around belly button. More often than not, this rash comes with other symptoms such as itchiness and tenderness. These can lead to an urge to scratch the area, which will only result to more damage to the affected area.

While most of these causes is treatable using drugs and therapy, it is still best to practice precaution and prevention. Read on to find out more about the most common symptoms and causes of having a rash around the navel, as well as some medical and home remedies to treat this.

The treatment of this rash depends on its primary cause, so it is important to know first-hand where the rash came from. Here are the most common causes:

Infections: Once the navel gets infected, rashes and other symptoms would often appear. Infections can come from substances as common as lint and body hair, which can cause inflammation and redness once they enter the umbilicus. Infections will warrant redness, itching, foul smell, soreness, and even pus or fluid formation out of its canal. Mild to moderate pain, and even gray- or green-colored discharge can be experienced.

Because the bellybutton is often deep and usually damp, it is very easy to breed bacteria and/or fungi in the area. Sweat and even soap can be deposited in the umbilical cavity, which will promote and facilitate bacterial or fungal growth, thus causing the infection. Aside from bacteria, yeast (fungal) infections can all occur. This is a result of yeast overgrowth, which will give rise to the same symptoms – redness, inflammation, and discharge.

Other contributing factors that can promote infection include pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes and sebaceous cysts, lifestyle factors such as obesity, poor hygiene, and piercings in the area. Surgeries in the belly button can also lead to complications, such as this rash around belly button. Exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun can also contribute to such navel infections.

Kinds of Infections:
1. Fungal Infection - this is primarily caused by Candida, a type of yeast. Risk factors that can lead to infection include the following:

  • Touching of the area
  • Poor hygienic practices
  • Leaving the area moist and damp for long periods
  • Obesity

The symptoms of a fungal infection in the navel include:

  • Rashes with foul odor, redness, itchiness, tenderness
  • Mild pain in the area
  • Pustules (pus-filled blisters)
  • Flaky skin
  • Occasional bleeding
  • White, yellow, or even dark-colored discharge

2. Bacterial Infection – the most common bacteria responsible for such infections are Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. The person can acquire these bacteria through the following:

  • Poor hygienic practices
  • A cut in the area
  • Rubbing and scratching
  • Obesity
  • Sebaceous cysts
  • Belly button piercing
  • Use of immunosuppressants and steroids
  • Foreign objects in the area

The symptoms of a fungal infection in the navel include:

  • Red and itchy bumps with pus-filled white centers, a condition known as “folliculitis”
  • Skin redness, warmness, tenderness and thickness inside and around the belly button, a condition called “cellulitis”
  • Mild fever

Note: Poor hygienic practices for both bacterial and fungal infections might include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Washing or bathing in unclean water, regular touching of the area with unwashed hands, and
  • Exposure to polluted environments, and other related practices

These may not directly cause the said infections, but can help increase the chances of forming a rash around belly button.

Common Causes and Treatment of Rash around Belly Button
Common Causes and Treatment of Rash around Belly Button | Source

Pre-existing Medical Conditions

Sometimes, the person already has a certain disease or medical condition before the rash around belly button is formed. These conditions either cause a complication, in the form of the rash, or present the rash itself as one of the symptoms. These conditions include:

1. Allergies - When exposed to a variety of allergens, a rash would usually form around the navel of an allergic person. People have different levels of skin sensitivity, and those who are more prone to reactions can suffer from allergic manifestations after contacting certain allergens. These allergens can vary from certain metals to foreign matter (skin products, laundry soap, bath products, and others). The most common rash around belly button is in the form of “contact dermatitis”, which develops as a reaction to allergens. Once a person contracts this condition, it is imperative to heed the advice of a doctor, particularly a skin specialist or dermatologist. Correct diagnosis and prompt treatment is important to avoid further damage and to prevent the formation of more rashes.

TIP: The best way to avoid contact dermatitis is by staying away from known allergens in the first place.

2. Psoriasis - This is the medical condition with symptoms such as skin tenderness, itching, prickling, redness, and the appearance of dry patches of skin. These patches may be thin or thick, depending on severity. Milder cases can be treated with topical creams, while more serious cases are prescribed with topical medications with anti-inflammatory ingredients and vitamin D. Depending on the case, the doctor may suggest the use of injections to treat the rashes.

3. Urinary Tract Infections - These infections, common with children, can present with pain and a rash around the navel, as well as frequent urination with smelly and cloudy urine.

4. Umbilical or Periumbilical Hernia - These medical conditions are characterized by the protrusion of a portion of the small intestine between the muscles surrounding the belly button. Once this occurs, a rash around the navel presents itself.

Symptoms of umbilical hernia include the following:

  • Red, blue, or grey discoloration of the area
  • A soft bulge that may grow up to a few inches
  • Discomfort during straining and coughing
  • A feeling of pressure and pain
  • Tingling sensations
  • Burning feeling around the belly button

Tip!

To prevent this from happening, you have to avoid the risk factors that contribute to hernias in the first place. These include obesity and persistent coughing. However, there are conditions which cannot be controlled and/or are necessary, such as pregnancy, surgery in the abdominal area, abdominal masses or tumors, fluid accumulation due to other conditions (kidney and liver disease), and others.

Other Causes

Aside from diseases and predisposition to rash formation, redness and itching in and around the navel can occur because of a number of other reasons. These include the following:

  1. Body Piercings - A common cause of forming a rash around belly button is skin piercings. Most likely, unhygienic and/or improper piercing procedures will lead to infection of the area. Improper aftercare of the piercing can also factor in on this, making the area prone to being infected. Once the piercing isn’t cared for properly or sufficiently after the procedure, bacteria can easily breed on the area, causing infection (with symptoms such as redness and itching). An infection of this cause may present initially with bleeding, and eventually with pus formation and discharge. Localized pain will likely follow, too.
  2. Pregnancy and Childbirth - Many women report an itching sensation that lasts throughout their pregnancy, especially in the area around the navel. Some even say that they felt itching before they found out that they were pregnant, causing others to believe that this alone is a good indicator of being pregnant.
    If you do suspect that you are pregnant, it is best to consult your physician or take a pregnancy test to verify. Itchiness around the belly button alone is not enough to give you a concrete answer.
    Itchy bellies in pregnant women are likely caused by skin stretching, as the uterus increases in size to make room for the growing baby inside. As the skin stretches, it loses a lot of much-needed moisture. With the drying of the skin, discomfort and itching are common. The buttocks can also be another area that may experience the same sensations, as it also expands during this time.
    Women are advised to refrain from scratching the area during pregnancy, since it can promote and facilitate infection and irritation. This can not only be uncomfortable, but can pose risks for both mother and baby.
    It is important to know that this itchiness will most likely go away after pregnancy. If it doesnot cease, it is best to consult a health care provider, especially if it is accompanied with soreness, redness, or pain.
  3. Menstruation - Aside from pregnancy, having their monthly period is another risk factor for women. Some report feeling pain in the navel area during menses. This is often caused by a blistering disorder - although rare, it does happen - called "PemphigoidGestationis". This starts during pregnancy, although many women report experiencing it when they start using oral contraceptive pills or as soon as their menses come back after giving birth. Experts believe that the female hormone estrogen is most responsible in aggravating the rash around belly button, including its other discomforts. This is why it begins in pregnancy, where the hormonal levels rise. It is also possible for this to reoccur in latter pregnancies.
    There is no need to worry much, because this condition often resolves by itself, usually after pregnancy, or later on after the menses come back or a while after taking oral contraceptives.
  4. Rashes after Cleansing - This may sound weird, but it does happen. Sometimes after cleaning the belly button, an itchy and/or tingling sensation sometimes follows. This can be due to the specific ingredients found in the cleaning agent that you use to clean the area.
    >The first aid measure is to change the product immediately, and to refrain from using strong agents such as alcohol or cleansers with similar active ingredients. Too strong agents can cause irritation and destruction of the skin’s natural flora, which help keep it healthy.
    Also, always make sure to dry the skin in and around the navel after bathing or washing. This is important because it can prevent unnecessary moisture from pooling there. A moist, damp navel throughout the day is a perfect breeding ground for unwanted bacteria or fungi, which can cause the formation of a rash around belly button.
  5. Rashes after Eating - Yes, this is possible. Some people experience rash-like symptoms around the navel after eating - to be precise, overeating. This is because the skin around the stomach expands to make room for the excess food consumed by the person, much like what happens during pregnancy.
  6. Scabs and Crusts - These skin conditions are primarily caused by bacterial infections (similar to those mentioned early on). As the infection dries up and heals, the skin forms a scab right in the formerly affected area. Many times the scab or crust will cause rash-like symptoms, such as redness, itchiness and tingling. As always, it is advised to refrain from itching, because this can cause the scab to peel off, which will only delay the healing process - or worse, re-infect the area.

Summary
 
Most common symptom of an infected rash
Pain and discharge
Most common cause
Infection due to candida
Preventive measures you can do
Good hygiene, balanced diet, exercise, and avoiding scratching the rash

Note!

Scratching the rash will not only causes further discoloration and growth of the affected area, it can also cause bleeding, and may aggravate it towards re-infection.

Medical Treatment, Home Remedies and Belief

Old Beliefs and Superstitions
There are several old wives’ tales when it comes to medical conditions. In case of having a rash around belly button, old folks will tell you that if it itches, you might be pregnant. Many women believe in this, giving false hope especially to those who have been trying to conceive for a long time. Still, there is no scientific connection between the itching and actual conception.

Medical Treatment Measures
Depending on the cause and severity of the rash around belly button, there are different ways to treat it. These include:

  • Surgery - recommended for rashes that have progressed so far that they cause a pus-like discharge and foul odor. Often, this is best for those who are suffering from a patent urachus. This relieves the patient from discomfort and can prevent further urinary tract infections, urine leakage, and even urachal tube cancer.
  • Blood sugar control - patients diagnosed with diabetes have to control their blood sugar levels. Skyrocketing levels of blood glucose will predispose rashes to develop secretions and foul odors. This may be treated with medication and lifestyle changes, as well as by regular washing of the area with antibacterial soap and lukewarm water, and then drying the area properly afterwards.
  • Creams and foams - doctors may prescribe several topical medications to wash the affected area. These are effective in controlling the current infection, if there is one, ridding most of the uncomfortable symptoms present.

Home Remedies for Belly Button Rashes
For less invasive measures that you can do at home (only if the rash hasn’t progressed too far yet), you can try the following:

  • Tea tree oil - this is very useful as a natural means of controlling navel infections. It has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties that can fight off either bacterial or yeast infections.
  • Salt Water - salt in itself is a first-aid measure for fighting infections. It is helpful for reducing moisture, which can be the cause of the belly button infection in the first place. To use, simply mix salt and warm water, then drop a bit of the solution in and around the navel. This will significantly prevent further growth of the infection already in the area, and will improve circulation of blood to facilitate healing.
  • Aloe vera gel - this can treat the area by relieving inflammation, redness, and itching. Just apply some of the gel over the area, as much as three to four times in a day. You can get this over the counter.
  • Turmeric paste - this paste contains antiseptic properties that can fight off the belly button infection. This means that it can reduce the rash’s pain, tenderness, redness, and itch. It also has anti-inflammatory effects that can lower the severity of the rash. Just apply the paste over the navel as necessary.
  • Neem oil - being rich in antifungal, antibacterial, and even antiviral properties, it can effectively cease further infection growth. This will also reduce pain and itching. Simply apply a few drops in and around the navel as needed.

Belly button rashes are quite common, and can be caused by a variety of factors. They can be very uncomfortable, but the preventive measures are quite simple if you just follow them: have a good hygienic profile, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and consult a physician if you suspect anything wrong.

Side Effects for Above Home Remedies

Tea Tree Oil
Generally when applied topically doesn't cause any harm unless one is allergic to this medicine. So, before applying on the affected area better go for skin patch test so that you can prevent further skin damage like your rash can get worse due to more itching. There are many side effects noticed when this medicine is ingested causing drowsiness, vomiting, nausea, hallucinations. There is also hormonal imbalance seen when given to younger boys leading to condition called gynecomastia.

Sea Salt
There are no specific side effects that are noticeable. But there slight burning sensation when applied on broken skin. Be careful sea salt water may contain some impurities.

Aloe-Vera Gel
When applied on the skin in some people, can cause allergic reactions. Oral intake of this medicine over medicinal overdose can cause certain side effects. Oral ingestion of this medicine is not suggested for pregnant and lactating mothers. Patients with diabetes should considerably avoid it taking orally as it can decrease blood sugar level drastically. There is also effect on kidneys when taken orally.

Turmeric Paste
People with turmeric sensitivity should be careful as they may develop rashes. Possible side effects are seen when ingested like heart burn, gastric irritation, diarrhea, constipation, liver problems, and uterine contractions. High doses are not recommended for pregnant and lactating mothers.

Neem Oil
It is unsafe when taken orally by lactating, pregnant women and children. High doses of neem oil consumption can cause long term effects on kidneys and liver. In infants and children consumption of this oil can cause serious side effects like vomiting, blood disorders, seizures and can even lead to coma. It is safe when applied on skin up to some extent.

Tip!

Before treating with these home remedies one must concern their physician especially pregnant, lactating mothers and children. One with skin sensitivity regarding these medicines should go for skin patch test before going further with treatment.

Which of the following preventive measures can you take in order to prevent aggravation of the belly button rash?

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Resources!

  1. "Fungal Infections of the Skin". WebMD. Retrived on 07, Feb-2017.
  2. "Bacterial Infections". Medline Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrived on 07, Feb-2017.
  3. "Tea tree oil". WebMD. Retrived on 07, Feb-2017.
  4. "Home Remedies for Rashes". top10 Home Remedies. Retrived on 07, Feb-2017.

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