Jock itch is a common, itchy rash of the groin. It can produce a very intense itch and is associated with a red or pink rash involving the groin folds and genitals. Jock itch is primarily a skin condition in men because of anatomic structures unique to males, the male genitalia.
The symptoms and signs of jock itch may come and go, and many cases of jock itch resolve spontaneously without any treatment. Jock itch is primarily seen in the groin, although it may spread to the inner thighs, genitals (including penis, scrotum, labia, and vaginal opening), and anus. Jock itch causes a red or pink rash on the sides of the groin folds. There may be a dry, scaly, well-demarcated rash or a collection of small, pinpoint red or pink bumps at each hair follicle. This form of eruption is often called ringworm because of its well-defined red edge with central clearing. The medical term for ringworm of the groin is Tinea cruris, and it is caused by a fungal infection.
Tinea cruris has a worldwide distribution but is found more commonly in hot humid climates.
Tinea cruris is 3 times more common in men than in women.
Adults are affected by tinea cruris much more commonly than are children. However, the prevalence of several risk factors for tinea cruris, such as obesity and diabetes mellitus, is rapidly increasing among adolescents.
People with increased risk for jock itch are those who often spend a lot of time sweating due to exercise or their weight.
Other risk factors for developing jock itch include the following:
Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop jock itch
Weight: Overweight people have more skin folds, which are the best climate for fungal infections including jock itch to occur
Sweating profusely: If a person sweats a lot, their skin is more suited for fungus to grow
Age: Teenagers are more likely to develop jock itch
Wearing tight clothing and underwear: Tight fabrics trap moisture against skin and create a prime environment for fungus to grow
Having a weak immune system: People with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop fungal infections like jock itch than others
Having diabetes: People with diabetes are more prone to skin infections including jock itch
Jock itch is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes. These fungi naturally live on your skin and normally don’t cause problems. However, when you remain in sweat-soaked clothes after exercising, the lengthy exposure to moisture can allow the fungi to multiply quickly. When you have an overgrowth of dermatophytes in your groin area, it causes the infection known as jock itch.
The fungus that causes jock itch is highly contagious. You may get the fungal infection through close personal contact with an infected person or through contact with the unwashed clothing of an infected person.
The term “jock itch” may give the impression that only athletes develop the infection, but it can occur in anyone. Those who are overweight are more likely to experience jock itch because the fungus can thrive in folds of skin, which are prone to sweating. As a preventive measure, it’s important to wash with soap and water in your groin and armpit areas daily. Jock itch may also be triggered by prolonged exposure to moisture and friction from clothes.
Common symptoms of jock itch include:
- Redness in the affected area
- Persistent itching in the affected area
- Burning sensation in the affected area
- Flaking, peeling, or cracking skin in the affected area
- A rash that gets worse with exercise or activity
- Changes in skin color
- A rash that doesn’t improve or even worsens or spreads with over-the-counter hydrocortisone (anti-itch) cream
- Jock itch typically affects the groin and inner thighs. It may spread to the abdomen and buttocks, but the scrotum usually isn’t affected.
Jock itch in groin
- Complications are infrequent since jock itch is usually a self-limited skin condition. Rarely, the rash may spread past the groin onto the thighs and genitals.
- Secondary skin infections from scratching or rubbing may uncommonly deepen causing cellulitis or abscess formation.
- Another potential complication includes temporary skin discoloration called post-inflammatory hypopigmentation (lighter than the regular skin color) or hyperpigmentation (darker then the regular skin color). This altered skin color may occur after the rash has improved or after a temporary flare.
- Permanent scarring is uncommon.
Diagnosis and test
In many cases, your doctor can diagnose jock itch simply by looking at the rash. If the diagnosis isn’t clear cut, your doctor may take skin scrapings or samples from the infected area and view them under a microscope. To rule out other conditions, your doctor might send a sample of the rash to a lab. This test is known as a culture.
Treatment and medications
In most cases, jock itch can be treated at home effectively. You can try the following remedies to get rid of the infection:
- Apply an over-the-counter antifungal cream, powder, or spray to the affected area.
- Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and warm water.
- Dry the affected area thoroughly after bathing and exercise.
- Change clothes and undergarments every day.
- Wear loose cotton clothing.
- Treat any other fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot.
If you do have jock itch, but it’s not responding to over-the-counter medications and home remedies, your doctor may prescribe something stronger. Possible medications include:
- Econazole, which is a topical medication
- Oxiconazole (Oxistat), which is a topical medication
- Itraconazole (Sporanox), which is an oral medication
- Fluconazole (Diflucan), which is an oral medication
Oral antifungal medications may cause unpleasant side effects, such as upset stomach and headaches. If you experience any of these side effects, make sure to discuss them with your doctor.
Spreading the infection
Jock itch is very contagious so do be aware of others while you are infected. It’s best not to share clothes, towels or bed sheets that way you avoid spreading your infection to those close to you. Also, it’s best to use different towels for your groin and the rest of your body and remember to always wash your hands after applying any treatment. Doing so will help prevent your infection spreading to other parts of your body
Jock itch has a tendency to keep coming back, much like athlete’s foot and related fungal infections. Preventing jock itch in the first place with some easy changes can help to keep it at bay.
To reduce the risk of jock itch, following these tips can help:
- Keeping the body clean.
- Staying dry. Moisture creates an ideal environment for fungal infections to occur. Drying the inner thighs and groin area after showering is key.
- Using powder to help absorb moisture after exercising.
- Avoiding tight-fitting clothing and underwear. Tight clothing and underwear trap moisture next to the skin. Men should choose loose boxers over briefs when possible.
- Changing underwear daily.
- Avoiding sharing clothing and towels with others. An infection can spread easily across the infected surfaces.
- Cleaning exercise equipment before use. The fungus behind jock itch can survive on hard surfaces easily.
- Wearing sandals in public showers or at the pool to avoid making contact with infected surfaces.