What Is the Connection between Body Odor and Disease?

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  • Written By: Stacy Taylor
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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The main connection between body odor and disease lies in the area of symptomatic side effects. Body odor can be a secondary symptom of a specific disease, so it’s usually possible to control this type of problem under the care of a physician. The best way for a person to determine whether persistent body odor occurs because of illness instead of the presence of bacteria or hormonal changes is by learning more about disease, paying attention to changes in body smell and reporting such changes to a physician.

The most well-known correlation between body odor and disease occurs in patients who suffer from hyperhidrosis, which is also known as excessive sweating. Although hyperhidrosis is a serious condition most of the time, its most common side effects are wetness and increased body odor. The best forms of odor prevention for people who suffer from this disease are frequent bathing combined with the use of antiperspirants, deodorants and occasionally anticholinergic medication therapies.

People who suffer from diabetes might notice changing body odor symptoms on a recurring basis. In most cases, the cause of foul body odor in diabetics stems from the improper control of blood sugar, which might lead to ketoacidosis, or elevated ketone bodies in the blood or body tissue. To prevent this type of connection between body odor and disease, diabetic patients should rigidly adhere to prescribed treatment plans that are designed to control and maintain their blood sugar levels.


One rare connection between body odor and disease is trimethylaminuria, a genetic illness in which the body is unable to process a compound called trimethylamine. When this compound accumulates in body tissue, the affected person often emits an unpleasant body odor that smells a lot like rotting fish. Most often, trimethylaminuria arises from autosomal recessive FMO3 gene mutations, but occasionally, the culprit is kidney disease, dietary proteins — such as those from eggs, legumes or fish — or an increase in trimethylamine-causing bacteria in the digestive system.

Another disease resulting in unpleasant body odor is phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare metabolic disorder that can damage the nervous system and cause mental retardation. Many parents are somewhat familiar with this disease because the first test that a newborn will receive is often the PKU test, usually performed shortly after birth by way of a blood sample obtained from the baby’s heel. Aside from its more serious symptoms, people who have PKU often give off a musty body odor because of an overabundance of the amino acid phenylalanine.

Other instances of body odor and disease might occur symptomatically in people who suffer from liver disease, alcoholism or fungal infections. Dietary imbalances and mineral deficiencies also can cause body odor. Consultations with a doctor or other healthcare professional might help uncover the underlying reasons for a change in body odor.


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Post 3

My grandfather died due to kidney failure and before he died, he often smelled like urea, the compound found in urine. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, urea builds up in the body and it can affect body odor. He used to go through hemodialysis several times a week. The urea odor would emerge when it was time for hemodialysis.

Post 2

@discographer-- Yes, a diabetic who does not have his or her blood sugar levels in control can have bad odor. And when I say bad odor, I'm talking about the odor of their sweat.

Someone who is not managing diabetes well can have a foul and yet fruity odor emanating from them. It's the result of too much sugar in their blood stream. This can also cause the excessive growth of bacteria in sweat which causes a foul odor.

Any diabetic who has noticed a recent change in their odor must see a doctor right away. Diabetics can also be at increased risk of certain diseases such as renal disease or liver disease and these diseases could cause changes in odor as well.

Post 1

I've heard that diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar may have fruity breath because of ketosis. But how does uncontrolled blood sugar lead to bad body odor? Has anyone experienced something like this?

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