A GI doctor addresses the question of can liver disease cause a bleachy odor.
Have you ever seen references online stating that liver disease can cause an odor in the patient that’s like bleach or “bleachy”?
“No, it does not smell like bleach,” says Jeffrey Fine, MD, chief of gastroenterology at the Medical Surgical Clinic of Irving.
“It’s hard to describe, but it’s usually a very distinct, very pungent odor, and it’s called fetor hepaticus.
“It’s unclear whether it’s ammonia, ketones and/or dimethyl sulfide, but by the time a patient is experiencing this, their liver is in bad shape.”
Perhaps whoever wrote that the odor of liver disease smells like bleach was instead thinking of ammonia.
What about an ammonia smell associated with liver disease?
Dr. Fine says, “The smell associated with liver disease is very distinct and extremely pungent.
“It may be ammonia-like, but it is not the same as the smell of a baby’s diaper (which can smell like ammonia) or sweat from a healthy individual after exercising (some exercisers report an ammonia smell post-workout).”
The odor of liver disease will emanate from a person’s mouth.
Spouses of patients have described the smell as that of “sweet and fecal.”
By the time a person’s liver disease begins causing a maladorous body or breath odor, there will be other symptoms present, such as jaundice, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, nausea and appetite suppression.
Pungent armpit odor in an otherwise healthy person is not a sign of liver disease.