Jock itch refers to rash and irritation in the groin area. It can be caused by a bacterial infection but is most commonly seen as a fungal infection. Jock itch is usually restricted to the warm and moist areas of the body such as the genital area, inner thighs and anus. It involves the development of red or pink colored, ring shaped rashes in these areas, usually accompanied by itching.
Jock itch is called so because it is was commonly found in athletes as they tend to sweat a lot, creating warm and moist areas in the groin,ideal for growth of microorganisms. Infections also tend to be more common in warm summers and in areas with hot, tropical climates.
Jock itch is not considered a serious condition and is easily cured even without treatment, however it can be source of much discomfort to the person infected, while it lasts. While it may be seen in both men and women, it is far more common in the former.
Jock itch can be contagious and is spread through direct physical contact or through contact with objects carrying the fungus/bacteria such as towels, clothes and bed linen.
Jock itch is most commonly the result of a fungal infection and is also known as Tinea cruris. Trichophyton and Epidermophyton are fungal molds that thrive in warm and wet areas and cause infections. In fact the fungal infection, Athlete’s foot or Tinea pedis may often spread from the feet to the groin area.
Infections by bacteria may also cause jock itch, however they are less common.
Jock itch can also refer to the irritation or rashes that develop in skin folds in the groin area simply due to friction caused by skin rubbing against skin. This is common in overweight individuals and those who wear extremely tight clothing.
Certain factors increase the risk of jock itch. These include:
- Wearing tight, constrtictive underwear
- Being prone to excessive sweating
- Predominantly seen in males
- Suffering from conditions, which weaken the immune system such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and hepatitis. Certain treatments such as chemotherapy and medications such as corticosteroids for example prednisone, also compromise the immune system.
- Skin conditions such as atopic eczema, an itchy skin disorder
- The presence of other fungal infections on the body such as athlete’s foot
Jock itch is characterized by reddish rash in the folds of the groin as well as in the upper thigh area. The rash may be a dry and flaky or in groups of red or pink blisters or bumps. These rashes are usually itchy, and severity can range from mild to unbearable in some cases. They can be painful, emanate odors and spread to other parts of the genital area such as the anus, vagina and penis.
Women infected with jock itch are susceptible to yeast infections. Vaginal and penile discharge in women and men may also be seen once infection spreads. In more severe cases, complications such as open sores, ulcers and cellulitis may result.
Differential diagnosis of jock itch includes skin eczema, heat rash, xerosis or dry skin, contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, inverse psoriasis and vaginal infections such as yeast infection.
If jock itch is suspected, the doctor will do a physical exam. The characteristic rash of jock itch is usually easily diagnosed. A doctor may also send skin scraping samples of the infected area to a laboratory for further testing. Fungal or bacterial culture tests may be done with the skin sample to identify the causative organism. Histopathological observation of the infected skin tissue is also done in some cases where infection is severe and spread out. Potassium hydroxide (KOH) prep test is sometimes used to detect a fungal infection. Calcofluor white stain can also bind to fungal elements present in the infected skin sample and fluoresce under UV light, aiding in rapid detection. A skin biopsy may also be performed to exclude other possible diagnosis such as skin cancers.
Jock itch sometimes clears completely by itself without treatment. In mild cases, a doctor may recommend over the counter antifungal topical creams or powders such as like miconazole and clotrimazole. A rash can clean up within 7-10 days when treated regularly.
It is also recommended that any other fungal infections affecting the body such as athlete’s foot, be treated simultaneously to prevent recurrent infections. In more severe infections, doctors may recommend prescription strength anti-fungal creams and/or oral medication.
Home remedies for mild jock itch include;
- Washing the area at least twice a day with an anti fungal shampoo such as ketoconazole and selenium sulfide.
- Keeping the area dry throughout the day
Jock itch can be kept at bay by taking the following precautions:
- Practice good personal hygiene. This includes regular showers, wearing clean clothes and not sharing personal items such as towels, with others.
- Keeping the groin area dry. Powder can be used to keep away moisture.
- Avoid wearing tight and occlusive undergarments.