What is body odor?

Body odor is any strong or unusual odor related to the body. Occasional abnormal body odor may be a temporary effect of a metabolic change, such as fruity breath in diabetic ketoacidosis, but by far the most common cause of abnormal body odor is hyperhydrosis (overactive sweat glands).

Sweating, or perspiring, is necessary to cool the body and is triggered by warm temperatures, exercise or physical exertion, or as a stress response to nervousness, fear, embarrassment or anger. Fluid from sweating in combination with skin bacteria produce the familiar odor recognized as body odor.

The two types of hyperhidrosis include primary or focal hyperhidrosis, in which your hands, feet and armpits sweat excessively; and secondary hyperhidrosis, in which you may sweat all over your body or in one area besides your feet, hands or armpits. Secondary hyperhidrosis is caused by other conditions, such as anxiety disorders, cancers, diabetes, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), lung disease, pheochromocytoma (tumor associated with hypertension), tuberculosis (serious infection affecting the lungs and other organs), or other infections.

Hyperhidrosis and body odor are rarely emergency conditions.

If your body odor is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.


What other symptoms might occur with body odor?

Body odor may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that often affect the endocrine system may also involve other body systems.... Read more about body odorsymptoms


What causes body odor?

Occasionally, abnormal body odor may be an effect of a metabolic change, such as fruity breath in diabetic ketoacidosis or changes in body chemistry in liver or kidney failure. However, abnormal body odor is usually caused by hyperhidrosis (excessive, abnormal sweating). Primary hyperhidrosis (affecting only the hands, feet and armpits) has no identified cause, but may be genetic. Secondary hyperhidrosis is caused by other conditions, such as acromegaly (disorder recognized by continuing growth of the hands, feet and face), anxiety disorders, cancers, certain medications, glucose (sugar) control disorders, pheochromocytoma (tumor associated with hypertension), substance abuse, tuberculosis,... Read more about body odorcauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Metabolic System