• Anna Solana, science journalist

    When smelling bad is not a matter of hygiene

    28 Aug When smelling bad is not a matter of hygiene



    EFE Salud

    An offensive body odour may not be the result of a lack of hygiene. Bromhidrosis is a disorder affecting both men and women and usually associated with secretions by the apocrine sweat glands located in the armpits, pubis, perineum and navel, behind the ears and in the folds under the breast. It is a chronic but treatable disorder.


    Persons affected by bromhidrosis do not perspire more; rather, their apocrine glands produce sweat containing ceramides that are different to those of the rest of the population. When broken down by the skin’s bacteria, a strong odour is the result. This odour, which is often described as pungent, musty or sour, cannot be dissumulated. The condition is believed to be genetic in origin, but may also be caused by a metabolic disorder such as diabetes, by thyroid or adrenal gland alterations or by certain drugs. In addition, certain foods, such as onions, garlic and spices, and also tobacco use and alcohol consumption, can aggravate the condition.


    To ameliorate the smell it is recommended to use germicidal soaps and to remove armpit hair. In some cases, when other antiseptics fail to work, the dermatologist may prescribe topical antibiotics that limit the growth of the bacteria that break down the apocrine secretions. If, in addition, excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) exacerbates the smell, the dermatologist may recommend botulinum toxin (botox) injections or laser treatment to reduce sweat production.