What is jock itch?
Jock itch (also known as tinea cruris) is a common fungal infection that affects the skin of the inner thighs, buttocks and genitals. The fungus that causes jock itch thrives in warm, moist areas. As a result, it causes an itchy, red, often ring-shaped rash in these warm, moist areas of the body.
If it’s a mild, reddish irritation or burning on the inner thighs or groin (between the thigh and the abdomen), it could be simple chafing from tight-fitting underwear combined with heat and sweat. Or it could be an allergy to soaps, laundry detergents, or synthetic fabrics, or a reaction to a new medication. If you recently started a new sport or a walking or jogging regimen, if you’ve been wearing a new type of athletic clothing (such as tight bike shorts), or if you’ve sweated more than usual while working out on a hot day, it might not be too serious. It’s called jock itch because it often affects male athletes or jocks.
What is the cause?
Jock itch starts out as an itch or a burning sensation on your upper thighs, in the folds of skin in your groin, or on the area called the perineum between the scrotum and the anus. Jock itch sometimes affects the scrotum or the anus, but it doesn’t usually affect the penis. Within hours or days, it can feel like it’s consuming your whole life with pain and itch. It is caused by a fungus, often the same one that causes athlete's foot. Sometimes it is transferred by a towel used first to dry the feet and then the groin area. It is much more common in men than women.
The groin area is a perfect environment for bacteria and fungus growth. Dark and sweat is just what tinea cruris needs to flourish. Jock itch isn’t really contagious if you don’t provide a hospitable environment for it. But since it’s the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot, one could get it from drying with a towel that was on the floor used by someone else. After you put on tight underwear and sweat some more, the fungus grows. If you don’t shower, rinse and dry thoroughly, change your underwear, and wear a fresh athletic supporter or gym shorts the next day, it continues to grow.
What are the symptoms?
- Itching and redness in your groin, including genitals, inner thighs, buttocks and anal area
- Burning sensation in affected areas
- Flaking, peeling or cracking skin in your groin
What is the treatment?
If it’s just a mild rash and not too bothersome, keep the area clean and dry and give it a few days. If it seems a little more serious than a rash, if you experience burning while urinating, or if the rash or blisters affect the penis, you should see a doctor to rule out a urinary tract infection or a STD such as genital herpes or scabies.
Most cases of jock itch can be treated at home. There are many over-the-counter antifungal ointments, creams, and powders designed especially for jock itch, and they’re available at almost any pharmacy. While the fungus that causes jock itch is often the same one that causes athlete’s foot, not all preparations for athlete’s foot are appropriate for the more sensitive skin in the groin area. Follow the instructions carefully, and use the ointment for the prescribed amount of time (usually about two weeks). Even if it seems like the problem is gone, the fungus may continue to grow again if it’s not completely eradicated. If the problem seems more serious than a minor irritation, or if it doesn’t go away with an at-home treatment, your best bet is to see your doctor. He or she may prescribe a stronger treatment than you can buy for yourself, and you may need to use it for an extended period of time.
If the infection involves other parts of the body, such as the scalp or nails, an oral antifungal may be prescribed. In addition, the doctor may want to have a laboratory analysis performed to confirm the diagnosis, especially if it hasn’t responded to at-home treatments.
What is the prevention?
- Bathe or shower regularly and rinse completely.
- Avoid strong or deodorant soaps as they can be irritating.
- Dry thoroughly.
- Wear loose-fitting, absorbent cotton shorts.
- Avoid tight-fitting underwear or clothes.
- Change underwear at least once a day, more often if you work out or sweat heavily.
- Don’t share towels.
- Use a fresh towel after each shower.
- Sleep naked to allow the area to remain dry.