It’s been nearly a year since we’ve seen any evidence that belly button infections are a medical problem, but new research suggests the rash may be part of a condition called belly button arthritis.
The condition, which can occur when a person has a soft belly, is characterized by a condition in which muscles on the inside of the belly button rub together or become tight, leading to inflammation.
Researchers at The Ohio State University School of Medicine in Columbus found the condition was more common in women than in men, but that women with the condition had higher rates of arthritis than those without it.
They also found that the condition wasn’t as common in people who wear tight-fitting clothing.
“It’s a common problem, and it’s an incredibly complicated condition,” said Dr. Jennifer B. Brown, who led the research and is the study’s senior author.
Brown is a professor of dermatology at the Ohio State Medical School and director of the Ohio Center for Belly Button Arthritis Research and Education.
Brown and her colleagues analyzed the medical records of 2,000 women ages 20 to 65 and 2,600 men ages 40 to 64 in the U.S. The women and men were followed for a year, with a follow-up visit in December 2019.
The researchers then tracked the number of skin lesions and other skin-related symptoms on the participants’ abdomens and found they were more likely to have belly button arthritic than they were in the general population.
“What we found is that belly buttons are the source of these symptoms, but they’re not the only source of those symptoms,” Brown said.
“It’s not like the women are sick because they’ve got this condition.”
Brown said it was unclear how common the condition is in women or whether it could be linked to tight-fit clothing or other factors.
“In general, women have higher rates and women are more likely than men to have it,” she said.
Brown said the study didn’t show that people with belly button inflammation are more at risk for the condition, but she did say it could provide clues to how the condition develops and could help doctors understand the risk factors for it.
“This finding helps us to make an informed decision about whether it’s a disease, and if it’s something that can be managed,” she added.
The study was published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.