WHAT WE TREAT
Jock itch is a type of fungal infection of the skin in the groin region.
It’s a common infection that can cause irritating symptoms, yet it’s usually not serious.
Many cases of jock itch are treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) medicine; however, others require a doctor’s care.
Jock itch is a type of fungal infection of the skin in the groin region. It’s a common infection that can cause irritating symptoms, yet it’s usually not serious. Many cases of jock itch are treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) medicine; however, others require a doctor’s care.
What Is Jock Itch?
Jock itch, known clinically as tinea cruris, is a fungal infection that can spread to the buttocks, inner thighs, and genitals. It appears as a red rash that may look ring-shaped and is often itchy. Primarily, jock itch affects men and adolescent boys. However, some women may also develop it.
Signs and Symptoms of Jock Itch
In most cases, jock itch starts out as a red patch of skin that emanates out from the groin crease onto the upper thigh. It may appear like a half-moon shaped rash or like a ring. The rash may also feature small, raised blisters. The skin can look scaly and flaky, and the rash typically itches, sometimes intensely.
Jock itch is caused by the same fungi that cause related infections in other parts of the body. These include the following:
Athlete’s foot: Tinea pedis—a fungal infection of the foot
Ringworm of the scalp: Tinea capitis—an infection of the head that primarily affects children
Onychomycosis: Tinea unguium—a fungal infection of the toenails or fingernails
Ringworm of the body: Tinea corporis—a fungal infection that affects any part of the body other than the feet, head, nails, or groin region
This family of fungal infections can all cause an itchy, red rash.
Causes and Risk Factors of Jock Itch
Jock itch and related fungal infections (athlete’s foot and ringworm) are caused by dermatophytes. These are mold-like, microscopic fungi. It’s perfectly normal for these fungi to be present on the skin, hair, and nails. For many people, the presence of dermatophytes on the body does not cause any problems. However, if these dermatophytes are in ideal conditions (such as a warm, moist environment), they can quickly multiply and spread, causing a fungal infection. The preference of the fungi for moist, warm environments is the reason why jock itch develops in the groin area. The folds of skin provide an ideal setting for fungal reproduction.
It’s important to note that these fungal infections can be contagious. It’s possible to develop tinea cruris through close contact with a person who has the infection. Contact with an infected person’s unwashed clothing can also cause the infection to spread.
Certain factors can increase the risk of jock itch. Its name is derived from the fact that athletes are prone to this infection, as they frequently sweat. Excessive sweating creates an ideal environment for fungi. However, jock itch is also common in people who are overweight or obese. Additional risk factors include the following:
Having another medical condition that suppresses the immune system
Being in the habit of wearing tight underwear
Sharing personal items such as towels and clothing with others
Having a history of other fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot
If you do have a tinea infection elsewhere, such as on the foot, it’s possible for it to spread to other areas. Practice good hygiene and take steps to treat the existing infection to reduce the risk of its spread to the groin.
Diagnosis of Jock Itch
It’s usually possible for a doctor to diagnose jock itch through a visual examination alone. Your doctor will also ask you about your symptoms, including how long you’ve experienced them and whether you’ve tried any treatments for them. Be sure to disclose your full medical history, such as whether you have a history of fungal infections in any part of the body, and whether you have a chronic medical condition that may suppress your immune system, such as diabetes or HIV.
Uncommonly, a doctor may ask to confirm the diagnosis with a lab test. He or she can take a small sample of skin and send it to the lab for an analysis. The lab technician will place the skin scrapings on a slide and add a drop of potassium hydroxide. Then, an examination via microscope should allow the technician to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment and Care of Jock Itch
A mild case of jock itch can usually be treated with an over-the-counter medication. Antifungal ointments, lotions, powders, and sprays are available. Follow the directions on the product label. Even if your symptoms get resolved quickly, you should continue to use the medicated product for one to two weeks, or as directed, to ensure the infection is completely cleared up.
Note that if you also have another fungal infection, such as athlete’s foot, you should treat both infections simultaneously. This will help prevent a recurrence of the infections.
If your fungal infection persists or recurs after the initial treatment, or if your symptoms are particularly severe, your doctor may recommend additional treatments. He or she may prescribe antifungal medication taken by mouth. Alternatively, your doctor may recommend prescription-strength creams or ointments.
In addition to using medicated products and following your doctor’s instructions, there are a few things you can do to support the treatment of an existing infection and prevent the infection from returning.
Shower and change into clean clothes shortly after exercising.
Wash your workout clothes after each time you wear them.
Keep your groin area dry. Consider using a powder product if you tend to sweat a lot.
Avoid sharing clothing, towels, and similar personal items with others.
Avoid walking barefoot in damp, public areas like gym showers and poolside areas. Wear sandals instead to prevent athlete’s foot.
Wear clothing that fits correctly. Avoid overly tight underwear, pants, athletic supporters, and sports uniforms.
Consider switching to boxers if you currently wear briefs.
When to See a Doctor
Jock itch and its related fungal infections can usually be treated at home. However, if your symptoms are persistent, it’s a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider. You may need prescription medication to clear it up. Consider connecting with a physician if your symptoms haven’t improved within two weeks of trying over-the-counter treatments. In addition, talk to a doctor if you’ve successfully treated the infection, but it later returns.
Complications with jock itch are rare. However, certain patients may be at a higher risk. If you have a compromised immune system due to a chronic medical condition, such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, or cancer, it may be best to speak with a doctor promptly. Patients who are immunocompromised may have a harder time fighting off the infection. Occasionally, these patients may also develop complications, such as open sores, ulcers, and cellulitis. Prompt medical treatment can get this infection under control.
If this is a medical emergency, please call 911. For mental health emergencies, call 988.