Game over! It was a hard-fought match, and Pete's team just won in the final seconds. Now, as he basks in the afterglow of sweet victory, he thinks about all the great things he's going to get for his sweaty efforts — admiring glances, bragging rights, a medal, a trophy, maybe even a mention in the local paper.
But he's feeling a little itchy and uncomfortable in an area due south. And it's starting to burn. Yes, it's something else Pete got for his athletic efforts — jock itch.
What Is Jock Itch?
Jock itch is a pretty common fungal infection of the groin and upper thighs. It's part of a group of fungal skin infections called tinea. The medical name for jock itch is tinea cruris (pronounced: TIH-nee-uh KRUR-us).
Jock itch, like other tinea infections, is caused by several types of mold-like fungi called dermatophytes (pronounced: der-MAH-tuh-fites). All of us have microscopic fungi and bacteria living on our bodies, and dermatophytes are among them. Dermatophytes live on the dead tissues of your skin, hair, and nails and thrive in warm, moist areas like the insides of the thighs. So, when the groin area gets sweaty and isn't dried properly, it provides a perfect environment for the fungi to multiply and thrive.
Who Gets Jock Itch?
You don't have to be a jock to get that itch down south. Jock itch is so named because mostly athletes get it. But it can affect anyone who tends to sweat a lot. It most often affects guys, but girls can get it, too.
Some things can make jock itch more likely to develop. These include lots of sweating while playing sports, hot and humid weather, friction from wearing tight clothes for extended periods (like bathing suits), and sharing clothes with others.
People who have certain health conditions (such as obesity or diseases that cause problems with the immune system) are also more likely to develop it.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Jock itch is usually less severe than other tinea infections. If it's not treated, though, it can last for weeks or months. Symptoms of jock itch include:
a circular, red, raised rash with elevated edges
itching, chafing, or burning in the groin, thigh, or anal area
Jock itch usually responds to self-care: Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, powders, and sprays will probably clear it up. Sometimes, though, a person may need to see a doctor for a prescription antifungal cream.
When it comes to healing a fungal infection, it's essential to keep the affected area clean and dry. Follow these steps when treating jock itch:
Wash the area, then dry with a clean towel. Use a separate, clean towel on the rest of your body — don't use the same towel you used on your groin.
Apply the antifungal cream, powder, or spray as directed on the label. It's important to continue this treatment for the amount of time recommended in the instructions, even if symptoms disappear sooner, to prevent the infection from coming back.
Change your clothes, especially your underwear, every day.
Treat any other fungal infections, such as athlete's foot.
If these steps don't work, or if symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, talk to your doctor, who might need to prescribe a stronger antifungal cream, spray, or pill.
Can I Prevent Jock Itch?
Good hygiene is the most important thing you can do to help prevent jock itch:
Shower or take a bath daily, and after playing sports.
Keep the area as dry as possible by always using a clean towel after showering or swimming.
Avoid sharing towels.
Wash athletic supporters as often as possible.
If you have a fungal infection somewhere else on your body, like athlete's foot or ringworm, be sure to treat it to help prevent the fungus from spreading to your groin. The best way to prevent the spread is to not touch or scratch your groin area after touching your feet.
Also, use a separate towel on your feet after showering — or if that's not possible, dry your groin before your feet so the towel doesn't spread the infection. If you have athlete's foot, put your socks on before your underwear — this covers your feet so the germs don't get on your underwear.
Jock itch is pretty common. The good news is it can be avoided through proper care and attention — and it's easily treated if you do get it.