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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Body Odor

Body Odor

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Body odor is the term used for any unpleasant smell associated with a person's body.

What is going on in the body?

People usually associate body odor with sweat, but sweat by itself does not give off an odor. Sweat is nothing more than water and salts expelled by the sweat glands to control body temperature. Bacteria on a person's skin can mix with the sweat and produce body odor. Body odor can sometimes be a sign of a more serious medical condition.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Causes of body odor include:

  • drugs, toxins, or herbs, such as alcohol, arsenic poisoning, cyanide poisoning, or cigarette smoking
  • eating certain foods, such as garlic or raw onions, which can cause bad breath
  • excessive sweating
  • inborn errors of metabolism, such as a group of conditions known as aminoaciduria. These tend to be noticed in childhood.
  • infections, such as a lung abscess or pocket of pus, skin infections, vaginal yeast infections, sexually transmitted diseases, or urinary tract infections. These can cause odor in the area of the infection. For instance, a lung abscess can cause bad breath.
  • liver or kidney failure
  • poor hygiene
  • psychological conditions, which may cause a person to think he or she has a foul body odor when none exists
  • tooth or oral conditions, such as cavities, periodontal disease, which is disease around a tooth, or gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums. These are common causes of bad breath.
  • tumors or cancer, which may cause an odor in the area of the tumor. For instance, tumors of the mouth or stomach may cause bad breath. Cancer of the cervix or uterus may cause a discharge from the vagina that has a certain odor to it.
  • uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, a condition that causes increased blood sugar levels
  • Other causes are also possible. Sometimes, no cause can be found.


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    Body Odor: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: John Riddle
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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