A jock itch is an infection that is caused by the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot. The fungus, known as dermatophytes, causes the skin to get scaly patches that are itchy and sometimes painful. It also produces a pink or red rash on the sides of the groin. Continued scratching causes inflammation. Jock itch has similar characteristics as athlete’s foot and ringworm, but the differences are that each is named according to the area of the body that it affects.
The jock itch is mainly associated with male athletes, who are more at risk of developing athletes’ foot. The male anatomic structures provide a more conducive environment for the infection to thrive after spreading from the feet. However, women are not exempted from getting the infection. The medical term for the infection in the groin area is tinea cruris.
The source of the fungus can be an animal like a cat or dog and/or soil, but, in most cases, it is contracted from another person. It can last a few days or many months if it remains untreated. Remember that it does not affect the whole body but just the groin area. Any itching with similar symptoms on any other part of the body is not typical of jock itch.
Jock itch begins to show in the same way as athlete’s foot. The first sign is mild intermittent itching that is initially not painful. With time, the itching gets worse and can become unbearable. The rash spreads to both sides of the groin and mostly affects the folds.
As the rash becomes dry, bumpy, and rough, it may develop blisters that have pus or begin to ooze some watery fluid. As the rash, redness, and itchiness continue to spread to the thighs, it may create a clear center spot.
In men, an infection develops on the head of the penis, while women may experience vagina discharge and yeast infections.
In severe cases, secondary complications like open sores, ulcers, or cellulitis may also occur.
A dermatologist or health care provider should be able to diagnose the condition as accurately as possible. Various other skin conditions portray themselves in the same way as a jock itch, but closer observation will show the difference. Other medical conditions that closely resemble the jock itch are:
Since the fungus that causes athlete's foot may spread to the groin area and bring about the jock itch, it is important to have yourself checked for athlete’s feet. The rashes from the feet can easily find their way to the groin area when wearing undergarments. Infections in the feet must be treated to prevent recurrence of the jock itch after treatment.
A microscopic examination of small scrapings of the skin will be dipped in a drop of potassium hydroxide to confirm the presence of jock itch and rule out other infections. In other cases, a fungal culture of the skin scrapings will be necessary. Certain bacterial infections can cause eruptions that resemble jock itch, and an examination under a special ultraviolet light will make the identification easier.
In rare occasions, a skin biopsy may be used to help confirm the diagnosis. Skin biopsies also serve to exclude other possible diagnoses. A skin culture may be sent to the lab to establish the infectious cause of the jock itch.
In the same way athlete's foot is treated, your doctor might recommend antifungal medication that you can acquire over the counter. Applying the medication daily will clear the rash and the itchiness. Do not stop using the medication before two weeks are over even if the rash clears before then. However, if there is still no improvement after two weeks, a visit to a doctor is necessary. No therapy works the same way and in the same effectiveness in all people.
In most cases, jock itch is not contagious. But where an infection is involved, the chances are that it can be spread through sexual contact, close skin contact, and sharing towels and clothes. Some people stand higher chances of contracting jock itch because of their anatomy, health condition, and immune system, history of exposure to the disease, predisposing skin conditions, and level of engagement in physical activity.
Jock itch can be prevented by observing several grooming and hygiene factors: