There are different ways that uncontrolled diabetes can make your body smell.
And these odors are not the same, depending on where in your body they are coming from.
Diabetes and Breath Smell
“Breath can smell due to chemical changes,” says Susan L. Besser, MD, with Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, and Diplomate American Board of Obesity Medicine and board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.
“Uncontrolled diabetes causes the body’s pH to be off (usually more basic than acidic) which can cause unusual breath smells,” says Dr. Besser.
When blood sugar rises to unacceptable levels, the body is forced to break down fat for energy – more fat than what the body normally breaks down.
The body also breaks down muscle (catabolism) – which it is never supposed to do.
The body’s preferred fuel source is glucose (blood sugar). When the supply runs out, the breakdown of fat and muscle causes the blood to become acidic due to chemicals called ketones in the blood.
These ketones can make the breath have a chemical odor because the body is trying to rid the ketones via exhalation.
The chemical odor resembles nail polish remover because the compound in nail polish remover is acetone. However, the breath may also smell somewhat fruity or sweet.
Diabetes and Urine Odor
“Urine odor can be sweet because of the large amount of sugar in the urine,” says Dr. Besser.
Feminine Odor from Diabetes
During menstruation, a sweet or unusual odor may arise due to the pH being off with uncontrolled diabetes.
“Additionally, uncontrolled diabetics can develop yeast infections — either vaginally or on skin due to the pH changes and higher sugar concentration in menstrual fluids and sweat,” says Dr. Besser. “Yeast thrives in that environment.”
Dr. Besser adds that she is not aware of any way that uncontrolled diabetes can affect the smell of one’s hair.
But if you’ve noticed that your hair has a naturally sweet or syrupy scent, you can assume that this is due to its natural oils – oils that don’t originate on the hair shaft itself, but in oil glands under the scalp.
Dr. Besser provides comprehensive family care, treating common and acute primary conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Her ongoing approach allows her the opportunity to provide accurate and critical diagnoses of more complex conditions and disorders.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.