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Is It Genital Psoriasis or Jock Itch?

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on May 08, 2020

If you have itchy, red skin in your crotch area, it might be genital psoriasis. Or it could be jock itch. The two conditions can look a lot alike. But there are differences, too.

What Is Jock Itch?

Jock itch is an itchy rash or fungal infection on your groin. It’s a common condition caused by a fungus.

Athletes often get it because it grows well in moist conditions, like public showers and locker rooms. It often happens when warm, moist skin is trapped in tight clothes.

Jock itch is contagious. You can get it through skin-to-skin contact, infected clothing, and damp towels.

What Is Genital Psoriasis?

Psoriasis, on the other hand, is a lifelong disease. When you have psoriasis, your immune system goes into overdrive, causing inflammation and fast growth of skin cells. Instead of shedding like they normally do, new skin cells build up on your skin and form lesions or sores.

You may have inverse psoriasis, which causes bright red patches on or around your genitals. Or you could have penile psoriasis, with pale red, scaly patches on your penis.

Unlike jock itch, psoriasis isn’t contagious. It can run in your family. It’s usually triggered by:

What Are the Symptoms?

Jock itch is usually red and scaly. It’s often very itchy or painful. It may peel or ooze fluid. The edges may be scaly, raised, or red. Or they might have bumps that look like blisters.

The edges often look different from the center. The middle may be reddish-brown. Sometimes the middle clears up while the edges spread out in a ring-like pattern.

Jock itch often spreads fast. You may get it on your:

  • Groin
  • Inner thighs
  • Skin folds
  • Buttocks and the crease of your buttocks

It’s rare on the scrotum or penis. It can spread to other places, like your armpits. You may also have athlete’s foot.

Psoriasis, on the other hand, is often smooth and red.

In some places, like the creases between your thigh and in your genital area, it might be reddish-white or have cracks. You may have other symptoms, like:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain when you poop
  • Dryness

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In places like your upper thighs, you may notice small, round plaques.

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You can get psoriasis on your:

  • Penis
  • Scrotum
  • Anus
  • Buttocks
  • Creases between your thigh and genital area
  • Upper thighs

It can develop on your penis whether it’s circumcised or not. You may notice small, red patches on the tip of your penis or the shaft.

You might also have psoriasis on other parts of your body. It may look less scaly, but feel sore and itchy.

How Do You Treat Them?

Jock itch is often easy to treat. It can clear up in a couple of weeks if you keep it dry and apply an over-the-counter antifungal lotion.

If that doesn’t work, your doctor can give you a prescription for an antifungal treatment. You apply it to the affected area once or twice a day for 2 weeks.

If you also have athlete’s foot, treat that, too. Otherwise, it can trigger a return of jock itch. Jock itch often comes back, so it’s best to stay on top of it.

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Genital psoriasis is often harder to treat than jock itch. Your doctor will work with you to find the right treatment to relieve itching, burning, and pain and clear up your psoriasis.

Your doctor may recommend a treatment to put on your skin, like:

Or they may give you a prescription for stronger medication, like a biologic, cyclosporine, or methotrexate. Your doctor might also recommend phototherapy, in which your skin is exposed to ultraviolet light.

Prevent Jock Itch and Psoriasis Flares

Taking good care of your skin can prevent jock itch and genital psoriasis.

To avoid jock itch:

  • Keep your body and genital area clean and dry.
  • Wear loose clothes.
  • Wash your clothes and towels often.
  • Shower right after you exercise.
  • Dry off completely after you shower.
  • Don’t leave sweaty, damp clothes in a gym bag.
  • Don’t share your clothes or towels with others.
  • Clean exercise equipment before you use it.
  • Wear flip-flops or sandals in public shower areas.

To avoid genital psoriasis flare-ups:

  • Use mild, fragrance-free, non-irritating cleansers.
  • Moisturize after you shower or take a bath.
  • Wear loose clothes.
  • Use high-quality, gentle toilet paper.
  • Keep urine and feces away from irritated skin.
  • Eat a high-fiber diet to keep bowel movements flowing easily.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology: "8 reasons your groin itches and how to get relief," "How Can I Treat Genital Psoriasis?"

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Jock Itch."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Jock Itch (Tinea Cruris)."

Kaiser Permanente: "Jock Itch," "Rashes or Sores in the Groin."

National Psoriasis Foundation: "Genital Psoriasis," "Genital Psoriasis Guide."

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