Jock itch is an infection caused by a mold like fungus or yeast. It causes a rash on the areas around the groin. The red, ring-shaped rash is very itchy and thrives in these warm, moist areas of the body. The rash is caused by the same fungus that causes athlete's foot, tinea cruris.
Tinea is another name for the fungal infection known as ringworm. Because of this, jock itch may be referred to as ringworm of the groin. Ringworm also causes athlete's foot and barber's itch.
Like other tinea infections, jock itch is caused by an overgrowth of the tinea fungus. This fungus lives on the skin in small amounts, but can multiply and grow quickly in warm, moist areas.
Causes and risk factors
Jock itch is often found around the groin and legs of athletes and is not a serious condition.
Jock itch is caused by a ringworm fungal infection. This fungus is highly contagious and can be spread easily from person to person through use of shared clothing and towels. The infection can also live on surfaces like exercise equipment, making it very easy to become infected.
The fungus that causes jock itch thrives in warm, moist environments. 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
Symptoms and diagnosis
Jock itch starts with a flat, red, itchy rash. This rash often first appears on the inner thighs.
The rash then spreads outward in a ring-like pattern. As the rash spreads, the center of the rash will often get somewhat better. The rash often develops a well-defined, red border that may include a line of blisters.
As the rash spreads, it may infect the thighs, groin, buttocks, and usually spares the scrotum.
Aside from the rash, other notable symptoms of jock itch include the following:
- Burning, itching, or pain at the site of the rash
- Scaling and flaking skin over the rash
- A rash that may worsen with exercise and does not respond to anti-itch creams
Doctors can easily diagnose most cases of jock itch just by looking the rash. However, in some cases where the diagnosis is not as clear cut, a doctor may send a sample of the infected skin to a laboratory for closer examination.
When to see a doctor
Although jock itch is not a serious problem, a doctor should look at any persistent skin rash that develops, in order to rule out other serious conditions. A person with jock itch should also see a doctor if over-the-counter treatments do not work, or if the rash worsens.
Treatment and prevention
Jock itch is fairly easy to treat. Most cases respond to the over-the-counter treatments that are available. These treatments include antifungal creams, sprays, and lotions.
If the over-the-counter remedies do not work, a doctor may prescribe high-strength antifungal cream or antifungal pills.
Other treatments for jock itch involve managing the uncomfortable itching.
Ringworm is caused by the same fungus as jock itch.
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.
While jock itch itself is not serious, it can be a persistent and recurrent problem that causes discomfort and itching. It does not cause any long-term damage, but the rash and other related rashes such as athlete's foot have a tendency to recur if proper preventive measures have not been taken.