Many men (and some women) will suffer the pain and inconvenience of jock itch at some time during their lives. The good news is that jock itch can be treated, usually inexpensively, and at home. Once you treat it, you can take some basic preventive measures to keep it from coming back.
Causes and Symptoms
Jock itch is caused by a fungal infection. Warm, moist areas are the best environments for fungi to grow. Heat and humidity increase your risk of developing jock itch. You may be at a higher risk of if you wear wet, damp, or tight clothing, such as a jockstrap or swimsuit, or if you are overweight or obese. You can also get jock itch from sharing towels or clothing that are infected with the fungus.
Jock itch results in red, scaly patches that burn or itch. The patches generally cover the inner thighs and skin around the groin area, but almost never involves the scrotum or penis.
What You Can Do
First, take a close look at the rash area. Jock itch is characterized by red skin and a discernible border between the part of your thigh that is affected and the part that is not.
Other skin conditions can look and feel like jock itch. One is called intertrigo, a skin irritation caused when the body folds rub against each other. It becomes worse when you are hot and sweaty. Symptoms include redness and peeling. Another condition is a form of seborrhea that is related to dandruff and is marked by dry, cracking skin. Erythrasma (a bacteria infection) and psoriasis are other common conditions that may mimic jock itch.
If you notice something reddening your groin, do not wait for it to get worse. It is much easier to treat in the early stages. Most forms of jock itch respond to over-the-counter products containing various anti-fungal formulas. Medications come in lotions, sprays, powders, and creams.
Be sure to carefully follow the directions for using any medication. The fungus can return if it is not properly treated. Buy a product that is specifically made to treat jock itch. Medication for athlete's foot, another fungal infection, may be too harsh.
Take some time to check your feet and the spaces between your toes for signs athlete's foot. It is possible to carry fungus from your bare feet to your groin when you put on your underwear or pants.
There are steps you can take to prevent jock itch from coming back, or spreading it to other people. These include:
- Keep your groin area clean and dry, especially after showering or sweating
- Always use clean, dry towels
- Do not share your towels or clothes
- Change your underwear or jockstrap daily
- Wear breathable fabric, such as cotton
- Consider wearing boxers instead of briefs to improve air flow
Jock itch may result from an athlete’s foot or toenail infection. To prevent it from spreading to the groin area:
- Treat the foot or toenail infection with proper medications (talk to your doctor first)
- Use a separate towel to dry your feet
- Put your socks on or cover your feet before putting on underwear or pants
- Avoid touching your feet, then your groin, when washing or getting dressed
- Wash your hands after touching your feet and/or groin
Know When to Bring in the Big Guns
If none of the above is working, see your doctor. The good news is that doctors can treat even the most chronic cases. Treatment may involve prescription medication that sometimes includes oral antifungals.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 04/2014 -
- Update Date: 03/25/2014 -