Jock itch may not be what you think it is. For starters, it isn't caused by jock straps. And it doesn't only affect athletes or weekend warriors. In fact, people who are sedentary may be just as likely as very active people to get jock itch.
Here's what causes this common and uncomfortable problem, and what to do when it strikes.
Many people often call any small, painless lump under the skin "sebaceous cysts." But those are most often "epidermoid cysts." Sebaceous cysts are much less common and affect the sebaceous glands, the oil glands in the skin.
Epidermoid cysts can be made up of a protein called keratin and fat. They usually appear on the face, neck, or upper body, especially the chest and shoulders. They erupt for many reasons, most often because of acne or mild skin injuries. (When they are formed because of swelling...
"The term jock itch is a catch-all for itching, redness, or irritation around your groin," says Thomas Rohrer, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology.
Jock itch can be caused by a variety of factors. Heat, moisture, and the friction of skin rubbing against skin or clothing may combine to cause redness and irritation. Jock itch can also be caused by infectious agents. The most common is a fungal infection called tinea cruris, caused by the same organism that causes athlete's foot. Less commonly, the rash may be caused by a bacterial infection.
Who gets jock itch?
Men are more likely than women to get jock itch, but that's just a function of anatomy. Men have more folds of skin in their groins that can get irritated and may harbor infections. Dermatologists say they've seen an increase in patients with jock itch because of the increasing girth of many Americans.
"When people are overweight or obese, they often have problems with skin rubbing against skin or clothing and getting irritated," says dermatologist Bruce Robinson, MD, a clinical instructor at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Overweight or obese people also typically have more deep folds of skin where moisture and heat can build up.
How is jock itch treated?
Fortunately, most cases of jock itch can be treated with over-the-counter remedies and a little common sense. "It's fine to treat the symptoms yourself at first to see if they go away," Rohrer says. Here's how:
After showering or bathing, dry the irritated groin area by gently patting it with a towel. Be sure to dry your skin thoroughly.
Wear loose-fitting cotton clothing to avoid chafing.
If your symptoms don't go away within a couple of days, try applying an antifungal lotion, spray, or gel. Prescription-strength antifungal medications have become available over the counter, making it easier to treat jock itch yourself, Robinson says. "But It's important to give antifungal products time to work," he tells WebMD. "Even if the rash and itching go away, continue applying the antifungal for four weeks, to keep the fungus from coming back."
If your symptoms don’t improve within a week or get worse, see your doctor immediately. You may have a bacterial infection that requires an antibiotic treatment.