8 Reasons Why Your Belly Button is Hurting

Most people spend little to no energy pondering their naval, except of course, for a little housecleaning. However, if belly button pain strikes, it may be time to take a closer look. There are many reasons behind belly button pain. It could come and go, be sharp or dull, and stem from a simple, resolvable stomach issue. On the other hand, belly button pain could radiate to other parts of the body, require medicine, surgery, or, worse, turn potentially fatal. Here are eight reasons why your belly button is hurting.

Sebaceous cyst

Do you feel an unusual lump on or around your belly button? If so, your belly button pain may come from a sebaceous cyst. Research describes sebaceous cysts as encapsulated nodules, filled with keratin material—basically, a lump under the skin that gradually enlarges and moves when you touch it. Although most commonly located on the face, neck, and torso, they can also develop on other parts of the body like fingers and genitalia. Sebaceous cysts are normally benign and pain-free. However, if found on top of a gland or within a hair follicle, you could experience belly button pain.

Umbilical Hernia

If you have a bulge near your belly button, and are experiencing pain, talk to your doctor. What you may have is an umbilical hernia. During pregnancy, the umbilical cord moves through a small opening in a baby’s abdominal muscles. Normally, the opening closes post-birth. However, if the muscles of the abdominal wall don’t come together completely, an umbilical hernia may appear at birth or even into adulthood. Too much pressure in the abdomen contributes to umbilical hernias. Sources of pressure could include:

  • Having multiple pregnancies
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Long-term dialysis for kidney failure
  • Obesity — Research suggests that obesity may be a possible factor for umbilical hernia recurrence.


It’s actually quite common for pregnant women to experience belly button pain during the second and third trimester. There are numerous reasons why pain might occur during pregnancy. One reason for pain, suggests UT Southwestern Medical Center, could be because the belly button is the thinnest part of the abdominal wall. Therefore, that area tends to be more sensitive as the pregnancy progresses

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that typically affects the small intestine, colon, or both. It can cause pain behind the belly button that feels like a dull ache or a sharp, cramping pain, which occurs about one to two hours after eating, suggests InflammatoryBowelDisease.net (IBD). Other symptoms that normally accompany the pain include diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue.

Bacterial infection

Do you have swelling, pus or liquid accompanying your belly button pain? If you do, then you may have a bacterial infection. The skin hosts trillions of individual bacteria, and the belly button harbors some unique bacteria of its own, according to a study published in PLOS ONE. Researchers looked at 60 belly buttons and found over 2500 species of bacteria living amongst the group. When bacteria begin to multiply, infection occurs. In response to the infection, your immune system springs into action to rid your body of the foreign invader. 

Many of the symptoms that create pain during an infection such as swelling, pus, or liquid are the result of the immune system trying to eliminate the infection from the body. If infection occurs, you may require antibiotics or drainage for fluid build-up. Keep your belly button clean to help prevent infection, particularly if you have a cut in your navel.


Gas is typically felt high in the abdomen and can move up to the shoulders. Indigestion, on the other hand, is more likely to be felt above the belly button, creating a burning sensation between the bottom of your breastbone and your belly button suggests the Mayo Clinic. Mild indigestion is usually nothing to worry about. However, if discomfort persists for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor.


Appendicitis is one of the most common abdominal emergencies that accounts for about 250,000 cases annually in the U.S. alone. Abdominal pain is the main complaint of patients with acute appendicitis. According to research, patients describe a periumbilical pain (abdominal pain that is localized around or behind the belly button) as persistently getting worse during the first 24 hours. Pain is usually sharp and constant and then moves to the right side. In addition to belly button pain, appendicitis may cause additional symptoms such as:

  • Fever, nausea, and vomiting
  • Appetite loss, constipation or diarrhea
  • Abdominal bloating or swelling, and inability to pass gas

If left untreated, appendicitis can be serious and even result in death.


The pancreas is an organ behind the stomach and next to the small intestine. When digestive enzymes move into the pancreas before they are released into the small intestine, they attack the pancreas, causing inflammation. Pain in the belly button is a typical symptom of an inflamed pancreas and resides on the left side of the belly button. According to The Emergency Clinic, mild pancreatitis may go away on its own. However, due to serious complications that can sometimes be fatal, always seek medical attention if you suspect pancreatitis.  

Often, belly button pain is not serious. But in some cases, it can be. So, if you experience unusually sharp belly button pain, don’t take any chances…see your doctor right away.

-Katherine Marko

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