A navel stone, known medically as an omphalolith, looks and feels like a hard, smooth stone that appears in the navel, or belly button.
Another name for a navel stone is an umbilical stone. They are rare, and a person may not notice that they have one unless a secondary issue, such as pain or an infection, attracts the person’s attention.
Below, we explore what a navel stone is, what causes it to form, and how to prevent this.
A navel stone consists of hair, bacteria, keratin, and sebum.
Keratins are a group of tough proteins that provide strength and durability to the hair, skin, and nails.
Sebum is an oily substance secreted by glands in the skin, and it helps protect the skin from the elements.
These substances can collect in the belly button and, over time, form a stone.
The visible part of the stone is often dark brown or black, due to the presence of the skin pigment melanin and the oxidation of fatty acids. The stone feels hard and smooth.
Navel stones seem to be more common in people with a lot of body hair and very deep navels.
As one doctor observes in a 2016 case report, navel stones usually do not cause symptoms.
A person may not even realize that they have one, unless a scratch, a cut, or an infection draws their attention to the area.
A navel stone develops when sebum and keratin, as well as hair and bacteria, accumulate in the naval.
Sebum is secreted by glands within the skin, and it reaches the skin’s surface by traveling up the shafts of the hair. Keratin is present in hair.
Navel stones are more likely to form in a person who has:
- poor hygiene
- obesity or overweight
- a lot of hair in the area
- a very deep navel
Navel stones are removable. Doctors can usually do so with noninvasive methods, such as softening the stone and drawing it out.
They may also use cotton swabs soaked in sterile saline to loosen the stone from the navel.
Another approach involves soaking the stone, or omphalolith, in sterile olive oil, then removing it with gentle manipulation.
If an omphalolith has led to an infection and an abscess, however, surgical removal may be necessary. In this case, the surgeon makes an incision in the navel, drains the abscess, and removes the stone.
Seek a doctor’s advice before removing an omphalolith at home.
If the stone is particularly large, hard, or has caused an infection, it may be best for a doctor to remove it. They do so in a sterile environment, which can be difficult to reproduce at home.
Naval abscess symptoms include:
- pain and swelling around the navel
- pain that is throbbing and limited to one area
- flushed skin around the navel
- a raised temperature
Anyone who may have a navel abscess should receive medical care.
To prevent navel stones from forming, it is important to wash the navel regularly.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommend washing the body every day using mild soap and water, once a person reaches their teenage years.
It is also important to make sure that no soap remains in the navel, and using a clean, moist cotton bud, or Q-tip, may help.
If it is difficult to dry the inside of the navel with a towel, a dry Q-tip can usually do the trick.
Anyone who may have a navel stone should consult a doctor.
If they believe that the stone will come out easily with simple softening, they will give the person guidance about doing this safely or remove it themselves.
For anyone with symptoms of a navel abscess, it is important to see a doctor. While navel abscesses are not a common complication of omphaloliths, they can be uncomfortable or painful, and they need medical treatment.
What else could it be?
The authors of a 2011 case report mention that a doctor should distinguish between an omphalolith and other formations in the navel, including:
- a keloid, a type of raised scar
- a dermatofibroma, a noncancerous bump
- a malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer
- umbilical endometriosis, which involves tissue similar to the lining of the uterus forming in the navel
- primary umbilical malignancy, a type of tumor
- umbilical metastasis, a type of cancer
Navel stones are rare, and a person may not realize that they have one unless it causes an infection or something else draws attention to the area.
Doctors can often soften and loosen the stone to remove it. While it is sometimes possible to do so at home, it is preferable to do so in a sterile environment.
If the stone has led to an abscess, however, surgical removal may be necessary.
The best way to prevent these stones is to practice good hygiene, by washing the navel with mild soap every day and ensuring that it is thoroughly dry.
What is the difference between a navel stone and a blackhead in the belly button, and how can a person tell the difference?
A blackhead is a clogged pore in the skin, and it can occur anywhere on the body. Commonly, blackheads form on the face and upper back.
Whereas, a navel stone is a hard, stone-like object that can form over a period of time, rarely, if that area is not properly cleaned.
— Madeline Knott, MD
Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.