What Causes Jock Itch? Can You Prevent It?

Jock itch: It’s the itch you shouldn’t scratch -- especially in public. It’s a common problem for male athletes. That’s how it got its name. But, you don’t have to play a sport to get it and you don’t have to be a guy. Girls and women can get jock itch, too.

It’s a type of infection called a tinea infection (in the case of jock itch, tinea cruris), and it’s caused by a fungus. It’s a form of ringworm. It likes to live in warm, moist places on your body. People who sweat a lot, are overweight, or have a skin condition called eczema, tend to get it.

What Are the Symptoms of Jock Itch?

It’s typically found in your groin, inner thighs, or anus.

Symptoms include:

  • Itching and burning
  • A red, scaly, circular rash with raised edges
  • Cracking, flaking, or peeling skin

How Did I Get This?

It may have happened if you:

  • Wear clothes that are tight and irritate your skin
  • Have moisture in the groin area from sweating
  • Leave on a wet bathing suit for a long time
  • Share damp towels or sweaty clothing
  • Are in close contact with someone with jock itch

How Is It Diagnosed?

Your doctor may be able to tell it’s jock itch by looking at the rash and hearing about your symptoms. In some cases, he’ll take a sample of the skin rash to look at it under the microscope. This isn’t usually necessary.

How Do I Get Rid of It?

If you don’t treat jock itch, it can last for months. But getting rid of it is pretty easy. Over-the-counter medicines called antifungals probably can clear it up in a few weeks. These are available in creams, powders, and sprays.

You may need stronger medicine if it’s not better in a couple of weeks. Call your doctor, if there’s no improvement.

You’ll also need to keep the area clean and dry. Take these steps for faster healing:

  • Wash the area, then dry using a clean towel
  • Use another towel on the rest of your body
  • Read the medicine label and apply it as directed
  • Use it for as long as recommended; the infection may come back if you stop sooner

Continued

How Do I Prevent It?

Use good hygiene:

Bathe: Shower or take a bath daily and again after playing sports or working out.

Stay dry: Pat your groin area dry with a clean towel. Ask your doctor about using an antifungal powder.

Don’t share: Don’t let others use your towels or other personal items.

Wear clean clothes: Wash workout clothes or sports uniforms after each use. Change your underwear every day or more often if you sweat a lot. Make sure athletic supporters (cups) are clean.

Loosen up: Avoid tight-fitting clothes and underwear. They can rub and chafe your skin and make you more prone to getting jock itch. Consider switching to boxers if you wear briefs.

If you have a fungal infection like athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), it could spread to your groin and cause jock itch.

Take these steps to avoid that:

  • Treat the infection with an athlete’s foot anti-fungal medicine
  • Use a separate towel on your feet or at least dry your groin before your feet
  • Put on socks before your underwear so your feet are covered and can’t spread the infection.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 27, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Boston Children’s Hospital: “Jock Itch (Tinea Cruris).”

Nemours Foundation: “Jock Itch.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Ringworm.”

Mayo Clinic: “Jock Itch.”

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