What Is Jock Itch?
A common reason for men to come into a dermatology clinic is to treat an itchy rash in the groin area. In many instances the cause is jock itch (although most of the patients who have it are clearly not jocks). Jock itch is a fungus infection of the groin that occurs mostly in men. It is usually the same fungus that causes athlete's foot and fungus infections of the toenails. The fungus grows readily in the superficial layers of the skin and thrives in a warm, moist environment.
What Are the Symptoms of Jock Itch?
The main symptom is, of course, itching. The itching, which can spread from the groin to the buttocks, can sometimes be severe enough to keep people up at night. The rash is most often red or reddish brown and has flakes at the edge of it. It usually affects both sides of the groin and does not spread to the scrotum or penis (the fungus is selective in the type of skin it can grown on).
When Is Jock Itch Actually Something Else?
Not infrequently patients report that they have jock itch but they actually have another problem. The most common other cause of an itchy rash in the groin is intertrigo. Intertrigo is similar to jock itch, but it is caused by the yeast Candida, not by a fungus. Like jock itch, intertrigo occurs in a warm, moist environment, and is common in obese people and in those who sweat heavily. The rash of intertrigo, in contrast to jock itch, is usually bright red and moist and without dry scale. Other itchy rashes that can occur in the groin include Hailey-Hailey disease, a hereditary condition that leads to red, cracked and oozing patches; seborrehic dermatitis, which also occurs on the scalp and face; and eczema.
How Do You Treat Jock Itch?
Fortunately, the fungus that causes jock itch is easily treated with topical antifungal cream. Generic clotrimazole or terbinafine creams work well when applied twice a day for 1 to 2 weeks, or until the rash resolves. Using a topical steroid cream such as hydrocortisone cream, can relieve the itching, but unless it is used with an antifungal cream, it can actually allow the fungus to grow more readily and worsen the rash. If the jock itch is severe or has spread to other areas like the buttocks, then sometimes oral prescription medications are needed, such as ketoconazole or lamisil tablets.
How Can You Prevent Jock Itch?
Keeping the groin as dry as possible is a good way to minimize the chances that jock itch will develop. Wear only clean underwear (although I really shouldn't even have to say that) and change your clothes if you become sweaty. Some people actually have good results applying a small amount of antiperspirant to the area daily to help keep it dry. If you have a fungus infection elsewhere, such as athlete's foot, then treating that infection decreases the chances that you will spread the fungus to your groin. Sometimes applying a topical over the counter antifungal cream, such as clotrimazole, to the groin about 2 or 3 times a week can minimize the chances that jock itch will develop.