Jock Itch

Written by Rachel Nall | Published on July 17, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is Jock Itch?

Tinea cruris (or jock itch, as it is popularly called) is a fungal infection of the groin.

Your skin is host to numerous types of fungi called dermatophytes. Usually, you are completely unaware of these fungi. But if the conditions are right (warmth and moisture), the fungi will multiply rapidly. You will then be very aware of the presence of Tinea cruris because of an intense itching and burning sensation in your groin. This condition is most common in men and adolescent boys.

Jock itch is also sometimes referred to as ringworm of the groin. This is a misnomer because ringworm plays no part in this infection.

Jock itch is not typically considered serious. Treating it quickly will minimize your symptoms and keep the infection from spreading.

What Causes Jock Itch?

The fungi that cause jock itch naturally live on your skin without causing problems most of the time. However, when you remain in your sweat-soaked clothes after a workout or game, the prolonged exposure to moisture can allow the fungi to multiply quickly. When you have an overgrowth of the fungi in your groin area, it causes the infection known as jock itch.

The term “jock itch” may give the false impression that only athletes develop this infection, but it can affect anyone. Those who are overweight are very likely to experience the condition because the fungus can thrive in skin folds, which are prone to sweating. Jock itch may be triggered by prolonged moisture and friction from clothes.

It is true that athletes are at increased risk for the condition because they tend to sweat more and for longer periods of time. Wearing tight clothing also can contribute to jock itch because it may cause sweating and keep the skin from drying.

Recognizing the Signs of Jock Itch

Tinea cruris typically affects your groin and inner thighs. It may spread to your abdomen and buttocks, but the scrotum is usually not affected.

Symptoms of the condition include:

  • redness in the groin area
  • persistent itching in the groin area
  • burning sensation in the groin area
  • flaking, peeling, or cracking skin in the groin area
  • rash that worsens with exercise or activity
  • changes in skin color

Treatment Options for Jock Itch

Jock itch usually responds well to self-care. It’s important to keep your skin clean and dry. Wearing loose-fitting clothing may help by reducing friction and moisture buildup. Use an over-the-counter antifungal ointment or spray that contains miconazole, clotrimazole, or tolnaftate.

The Tinea cruris fungus is highly contagious. The infection can spread by skin-to-skin contact, as well as by touching the unwashed clothing of a person with the infection.

When to See Your Doctor

If your jock itch doesn’t improve after two weeks of self-care, you should book an appointment with your doctor. You may have developed a secondary infection that will need treatment.

Usually, jock itch can be diagnosed by visual inspection. If your infection hasn’t responded to treatment, your doctor may decide to take skin scrapings for a culture or a biopsy. This will help rule out another skin disorder like psoriasis.

If you do have jock itch, but it’s just not responding to over-the-counter medications, your doctor may prescribe something stronger. Possible medications include:

  • topical medications like econazole and oxiconazole (Oxistat)
  • oral medications like itraconazole (Sporanox), fluconazole (Diflucan), or terbinafine (Lamisil)

Oral antifungal medications are associated with unpleasant side effects like an upset stomach, affected liver function, and headache. If you experience any of these side effects, be sure to discuss them with your doctor. Before beginning any new medications, tell your doctor about all the medications (prescribed and over the counter) and supplements you are taking to prevent drug interactions.

Potential Long-Term Effects of Jock Itch

While the fungus that causes jock itch is not considered serious, it does represent a significant concern for people with impaired immune function, according to the Mayo Clinic. Someone with an impaired immune system may not be able to fight off the infection as well as a person with a healthy immune system.

Complications of jock itch include permanent discoloration of the affected skin, secondary infections, and side effects from medications used in treatment.

Tips to Prevent Jock Itch

Jock itch is a preventable condition. Prevention involves maintaining good hygiene practices. First and foremost, keep your skin clean and dry. Wash regularly with an antibacterial soap, particularly around your groin area, and dry the area thoroughly after bathing.

Wearing loose-fitting clothing can prevent sweating and the sustained moist environment in which Tinea cruris thrives. You may wish to wear moisture-wicking undergarments or shorts that can absorb sweat and reduce the likelihood fungus will grow. If you wear an athletic supporter, wash it frequently.

Athlete’s foot is an infection cause by the fungus Tinea pedis. If you have athlete’s foot, treat it quickly and take care not to spread it to your groin area by using the same towel on your feet and then your groin.

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