Belly button discharge can indicate a cyst or an infection. Factors such as a recent belly button piercing, recent surgery, and having diabetes may increase this risk of discharge due to infection.

Belly button discharge can have various colors and give off an unpleasant smell. In some cases, the area may also be inflamed and tender or painful.

Preventive care may be the best way to avoid belly button discharge caused by infections. This can involve regularly washing and thoroughly drying the belly button.

This article explains some potential causes of belly button discharge, including treatment options, how to prevent it, and when to call a doctor.

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Below are some potential causes of discharge from the belly button.

Bacterial or fungal infections

Leaving the belly button unclean can allow harmful bacteria to overpower the helpful ones and cause an infection. People with belly button piercings may experience infection if bacteria enters the open wound.

However, other factors can cause belly button infections, such as a hernia or granuloma.

Bacterial infections can cause a discharge that may have a disturbing smell. The discharge may be off-yellow or green in color and will often cause swelling and pain.

A fungal infection or yeast infection may cause slightly different symptoms. Candida albicans is a naturally occurring yeast on the skin that prefers dark, damp environments, including the armpits and groin.

A Candida yeast infection may cause a rash in and around the affected area. A person may also experience itchiness and a foul-smelling discharge.


Anyone who has recently had abdominal surgery and notices pus or liquid draining from their belly button should call their doctor.

This kind of discharge, which may be green or yellow, can indicate an internal infection that needs immediate treatment.


Cysts are hard or soft growths that contain liquid and pus. There are various types of cysts that can cause discharge on affected body parts.

For example, a urachal cyst may cause belly button discharge. The urachus is the tube connecting the bladder of a fetus to the umbilical cord. While the urachus usually closes up before a baby is born, sometimes it does not close completely.

In cases where the urachus tube does not close completely, a cyst may form on it later in life. These cysts typically affect older children but can also affect adults.

If a cyst becomes infected it may cause a cloudy or bloody fluid to leak from the belly button. However, some people may experience discharge without other signs of infection, such as inflammation and pain.

Sebaceous cysts may also cause belly button discharge, although sebaceous cysts affecting the belly button are rare.

The sebaceous glands release oil in the skin. If dirt or oil clogs one of these glands in or near the belly button, a cyst may form under the skin.

People can contact a doctor for a proper diagnosis if they believe they have a cyst.


Conditions such as diabetes may put a person at risk of having a discharge from their belly button at certain times.

A 2021 paper highlights that people with diabetes have an increased risk of infection, particularly Candida yeast infections.

People with diabetes have higher glucose levels in their blood and saliva. Candida yeast feeds on this sugar. The yeast may then spread more easily in the body and on the skin.

Diagnosing belly button discharge may involve a physical exam, where doctors assess the discharge, other symptoms, and any related conditions the person may have.

This may be enough to make a diagnosis. If they are uncertain, doctors may take a sample of the discharge or skin cells from the belly button to analyze.

In most cases, a healthcare professional will recommend keeping the belly button clean and dry to assist healing. Treatments will depend on the underlying cause and may include the following options.

Treating infections

Doctors may prescribe antibiotic ointments or creams for bacterial infections. Fungal or yeast infections may require antifungal powders or creams.

People with diabetes can work with a healthcare team to manage their blood sugar levels and reduce their risk of infections where possible.

People who are recovering from abdominal surgery should care for their belly button as their surgical team instructs and keep an eye out for any signs of infection.

Treating cysts

If a cyst is causing belly button discharge, a doctor may choose to completely drain the cyst. If an infection is present, they may prescribe antibiotics to treat this first.

People should not squeeze a cyst or try to drain it at home, as this can increase the risk of infection. A doctor may recommend applying a warm compress to draw pus to the surface.

The following steps can help a person prevent some causes of belly button discharge:

  • clean the belly button regularly with soap and warm water
  • dry the belly button completely after bathing, showering, or swimming
  • remove any built-up oils, soap, or lint
  • avoid picking or scratching at the belly button
  • wear loose clothing made from natural fibers
  • clean belly button piercings regularly and follow correct piercing aftercare
  • seek treatment for conditions that may increase the risk of infection

Regularly cleaning the belly button and following some of these hygiene tips may help prevent infections that can cause discharge.

A person with belly button discharge should see a doctor to diagnose the underlying cause, especially if they experience other symptoms.

Other symptoms that could indicate an infection include:

  • fever
  • chills or sweats
  • sore abdominal muscles
  • redness, tenderness, or inflammation around the belly button

A doctor can prescribe appropriate treatments to help a person clear up any discharge and recommend steps to prevent the underlying issue from returning.

Belly button discharge can occur due to infection but may also indicate another issue, such as a cyst or an injury.

Infection in this area may be more likely if a person has abdominal surgery, a navel piercing, or a health condition that increases their risk of infections generally.

People should speak with a doctor if they experience belly button discharge. A doctor can diagnose the underlying cause and suggest an appropriate treatment plan.