Is It Inverse Psoriasis or Jock Itch? Learn the Signs

Medically reviewed by Zara Risoldi Cochrane, PharmD, MS, FASCP on June 27, 2016Written by Juliann Schaeffer on November 11, 2015

Redness and itching are common symptoms for several conditions. If you’ve got redness and itching in the groin area, thighs, or buttocks, it might be caused by inverse psoriasis or jock itch.

The symptoms for inverse psoriasis and jock itch are similar, but there are a few key differences. Keep reading to learn more about these two conditions, including their risk factors and treatment options.

What is inverse psoriasis?

Inverse psoriasis is an unusual form of psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease caused at least partly by genetics. An autoimmune disease can develop when your body’s immune system views your healthy cells as foreign objects. The body begins to attack these cells as a defense against a perceived threat.

Inverse psoriasis appears in areas where skin rubs against skin, including the groin, armpits, or inner thigh regions. Inverse psoriasis affects an estimated 3 to 7 percent of people with psoriasis.

What is jock itch?

Jock itch is the common name for a fungal infection called Tinea cruris (or T. cruris), which may occur in the groin area, thighs, or buttocks. Unlike psoriasis, which has a more complex cause, we know fungi called dermatophytes cause jock itch. These fungi are similar to those that cause ringworm.

What are the symptoms of inverse psoriasis?

Psoriasis comes in different forms. The most common skin symptoms include raised, red patches of skin that are occasionally paired with a silvery scale. Itching or bleeding may also occur.

These skin patches, also known as plaques, can show up anywhere on your body. Plaque psoriasis commonly appears on the:

  • elbows
  • knees
  • lower back
  • buttocks
  • scalp

Inverse psoriasis most often shows up in folded areas of the body, or wherever skin touches skin, says Aleksandr Itkin, M.D., F.A.A.D., a dermatologist at Scripps Clinic in San Diego. According to Itkin, this type of psoriasis is often mistaken for fungal infections such as jock itch because of its common appearance in the groin area.

What are the symptoms of jock itch?

Jock itch can also cause redness in the groin area, as well as itching, burning, and overall irritation. You may also see scaling, which can appear on the thighs or buttocks as well.

How do you tell the difference? According to Itkin, one of the main way doctors can tell the difference is by looking at what’s called “demarcation.”

“A fungal infection usually has a fine elevated scale at the leading reddish edge of the lesion, while the center of the lesion becomes brownish, less red, and less scaly,” Itkin says.

Inverse psoriasis usually doesn’t have this scale. If it does, it’s probably more evenly distributed over the patch of skin. Inverse psoriasis will look more evenly red than jock itch because of this.

What are the risk factors?

If someone in your family has psoriasis, your chances of being diagnosed increase. Being obese, smoking, and stress can also increase your risk of developing the disease.

Being overweight is also a risk factor for jock itch because the fungus can live in skin folds. The fungus multiplies in warm, moist places, so people who sweat more, such as athletes, are more likely to get jock itch.

Treating inverse psoriasis

There’s no permanent cure for psoriasis. Treatments can include:

  • topical creams
  • biologics
  • oral medications
  • other therapies that can help keep your symptoms under control

Since these treatments are treating your symptoms and not the condition, your symptoms may return at a later time, especially if you stop treatment.

Treating jock itch

You can usually treat jock itch with topical creams and oral medications. Some of these medications are even available over the counter at your local drugstore. Good personal hygiene can prevent future cases of jock itch or other fungal infections. Change your undergarments if they become saturated with sweat or water. Shower immediately after participating in any sports.

When you should see a doctor

You should make an appointment with your doctor to get a medical opinion if your symptoms last longer than 10 days. This is especially true if your symptoms worsen or don’t respond to an over-the-counter fungal treatment. Getting an accurate diagnosis is the best way to start feeling better faster.

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