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Sebaceous Cyst

It’s a lump under the skin that grows slowly and moves when you touch it. You might get one if something blocks a gland or irritates the area around a hair (follicle). A cut or scrape could also cause it. They usually don’t hurt, but you might notice a bad smell if the cyst drains. You can often ignore a smaller cyst. But if it's large, swollen, or painful, your doctor may drain it, remove it, or inject drugs to curb the swelling.

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Umbilical Hernia

Newborns have a small opening in their abdominal muscles where the umbilical cord connects. Digestive tubing (intestine) can poke through to the bellybutton before the hole can close. Most cases get better by age 5. Anything that raises abdominal pressure, like weightlifting, heavy coughing, or childbirth, could cause it in adults. Your doctor might try to massage it back into place, but if it’s in too tight, you may need surgery.

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Before birth, your bladder connects to your bellybutton through this channel in your gut. Though it usually disappears by the time you’re born, sometimes it remains. You might not notice it, but if it’s completely open, your navel may be wet as urine flows up and even leaks out. Your doctor will do surgery to repair the problem.

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Urachal Cyst

The urachus might close enough to block fluid but still leave space for a lump of tissue, or cyst, to grow. It may be so small that you don’t know it’s there. But if it gets infected, you could have belly button pain, fever, and bloody urine. Your doctor may give you antibiotics, drain or remove the cyst, and possibly repair the area with surgery.

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Umbilical Granuloma

This moist, red mound of tissue forms on a baby’s navel after the umbilical cord dries and falls off. It’s not a serious problem and usually doesn’t hurt. But it may ooze fluid that irritates the skin. You treat it with an ointment of silver nitrate that shrinks it. In some cases, your doctor might tie the bottom of the lump with thread to cut blood supply, so it shrivels and drops off.

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Bacterial Infection

Bacteria can infect a wound or a cyst on your belly button or behind it. You could have pain, swelling, and pus or liquid that leaks from your navel. Your doctor might give you antibiotics or drain any built-up fluid. If another health problem caused it, you may get surgery to stop it from happening again. Keep the area clean to help prevent infection, especially if you have a cut or scrape.

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The fungus candida thrives in dark, warm, moist places like your belly button. It causes a rash of dry, itchy, swollen skin. You’re more likely to get it if you’re pregnant, obese, or take antibiotics. You can help prevent it if you wear looser clothing and keep your navel clean, especially in hot, humid weather. You treat it with antifungal creams, powders, or lotions rubbed directly on the area.

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Kids who have this birth defect may end up with just a scar, or nothing at all, for a belly button. When they’re born, the belly wall isn’t finished, which lets some of the bowel, liver, and other organs get out into the base of the umbilical cord. It can take some time to get everything back inside, even after surgery, which is the usual treatment.

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If you’re expecting, your belly button will probably go from an “innie” to an “outie” as pressure builds in your belly. In some cases, it could stick out far enough to be considered an umbilical hernia. Your doctor should notice this on one of your regular pregnancy visits and might try to massage it back into place. In rare cases, you may need surgery.

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Navel Piercing

You like the look but don’t want an infection or scars. So only go to a licensed pro and make sure they wash their hands, wear gloves, and use good, sterilized equipment. Choose jewelry made from metals less likely to cause an allergy: surgical steel, titanium, 14-karat gold. Leave it in place for 6 weeks or more. Clean with soap and water, and try not to touch it. Call your doctor if it’s still swollen, red, or painful after a few days.

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Do you have an outie and want an innie, or you don’t like the shape of your belly button? There’s cosmetic surgery for that. You might get it with a tummy tuck operation (abdominoplasty) or by itself, or to repair hernia damage. Your doctor moves and removes tissue around your navel to give it the look you prefer, sometimes making a new hole in your skin in the process.

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Skin Problems

Harsh chemicals in some soaps can irritate the skin in and around your navel. Look for gentle cleansers that don’t have alcohol, which might leave your skin dry and itchy. And don’t wash too much, since that can bother your skin. If you also have pain or swelling, tell your doctor.

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Sister Mary Joseph Nodule

This lump of tissue (tumor) bulges into your navel because of cancer that’s spreading in your gut. The color can range from white to brownish red. It may be firm or leak fluid. Other signs of cancer might be a bloated belly, nausea, weight loss, and bleeding when you go to the bathroom. Surgery can remove the nodule if it hurts, but this doesn’t slow the disease. It’s named for the nurse who noticed the link to cancer.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 03/07/2020 Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on March 07, 2020


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American Academy of Dermatology: “How to relieve itchy skin,” “Dry Skin: Tips for Managing,” “Face washing 101,” “Piercings and tattoos: Cool or dangerous?”

American Pediatric Surgical Association: “Umbilical Conditions,” “Urachal Cysts.”

American Society of Plastic Surgeons: “What are the steps of a tummy tuck procedure?”

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “Omphalocele,” “Giant Omphalocele: Jackson's Story.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Sebaceous Cysts.”

Dr. Lee Daniel Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: “What Happens to Your Belly Button during a Tummy Tuck?”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Sebaceous Cyst,” “Umbilical Hernia.”

Mayo Clinic: “Piercings: How to prevent complications.”

Merck Manual: “Candidiasis (Yeast Infection).”

MyHealth.Alberta.ca: “Umbilical Granuloma: Care Instructions.”

National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences: “Urachal cyst.”

Scripps: “Omphalocele.”

UCSF Department of Urology: “Urachal Abnormalities.”

British Journal of General Practice: “Sister Mary Joseph’s nodule: an unusual but important physical finding characteristic of widespread internal malignancy.”

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on March 07, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.