Navel stones and their removal: What to know

A navel stone, medically known as an omphalolite, looks and sounds like a rough, smooth stone that occurs in the navel, or button in the belly.

Another name is an umbilical stone, for a navel stone. These are rare, and a person can not know that they have one until the person’s attention is drawn to a secondary problem, such as pain or an infection.

We’ll discuss below what a navel stone is, what causes it to form, and how it can be avoided.

What is it?

Shoulder pain in men
A person with a navel stone may not experience any symptoms

A navel stone has hair, bacteria, keratin, and sebum in it.

Keratins are a group of tough proteins which give the hair , skin and nails strength and durability.

Sebum is an sticky material in the skin that is secreted by glands, and helps protect the skin from the elements.

Such substances will accumulate in the button of the belly, and form a stone over time.

Due to the production of skin pigment melanin and oxidation of fatty acids the visible portion of the stone is mostly dark brown or black. The stone feels soft and tough.

Navel stones in people with a lot of body hair and very deep navels tend to be more common.

Symptoms

As one doctor states in a case study for 2016, navel stones don’t normally cause symptoms.

A person may not even know that they have one, until their attention is drawn to the area by a scratch, cut, or infection.

Causes

A navel stone forms as sebum and keratin grow in the naval, and so do hair and bacteria.

Sebum is secreted within the skin by glands, and it reaches the surface of the skin by traveling the hair shafts. Keratin occurs in the 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

Removal

Removable Navel stones. Doctors will typically do so using non-invasive techniques, such as softening and rubbing out the stone.

They can also use soaked cotton swabs in sterile saline to loosen the stone off the navel.

Another method involves soaking the stone in sterile olive oil, or omphalolith, and then scraping it with gentle manipulation.

However, surgical removal may be necessary where an omphalolith has led to an infection and an abscess. For this case, the surgeon does a navel incision, drains the abscess and removes the stone.

At home

Look for advice from a doctor before extracting an omphalolith at home.

If the stone is especially big, rough, or has caused an infection, extracting it may be better for a doctor. They do this in a sterile atmosphere which at home can be hard to replicate.

Complications

Rarely does an omphalolith in the navel lead to an infection and an abscess. An abscess is a dense accumulation of pus arising from an infection.

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.

Prevention

It’s necessary to wash the navel periodically to prevent navel stones from forming.

Use mild soap and water every day, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing the body once a person enters their teenage years.

It is also essential to ensure that no soap remains in the navel, which can help with the use of a clean, moist cotton bud, or Q-tip.

When drying the inside of the navel with a towel is difficult, a dry Q-tip normally will do the trick.

When to see a doctor

Anyone who may have a navel stone will seek medical attention.

If they believe that with simple softening the stone can fall out easily, they can give the individual advice on doing this safely or remove it themselves.

It ‘s critical for anyone with symptoms of a navel abscess to see a doctor. Although navel abscesses are not a typical omphalolith complication, they may be uncomfortable or painful, and require medical attention.

What else could it be?

The authors of a 2011 case study note that a physician can differentiate between an omphalolith and other navel structures 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

Summary

Navel stones are uncommon, and a person may not know they have one until it triggers an infection or otherwise draws attention to the area.

Doctors are also able to soften and loosen the stone for removal. Although this may often be performed at home, doing so in a clean setting is preferable.

However, if the stone has contributed to an abscess it can need surgical removal.

The only way to avoid these stones is to practice good hygiene, cleaning the navel every day with a gentle soap and making sure it is completely dry.

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