What Is Jock Itch?

Medically Reviewed By Megan Soliman, MD
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Jock itch is an infection that commonly affects people who sweat a lot, such as athetes. This article defines jock itch. It also discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatment options associated with the condition.

What is jock itch?

Male running
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Tinea cruris, or jock itch, is a fungal skin infection. It gets its informal name because it is most commonly observed in athletes and those who sweat a lot due to sports-related activities.

Although it is more common in athletes, anyone can develop jock itch.

Jock itch results from fungi commonly present in locker rooms and gyms. It is generally seen more often in males but can affect females as well.

It typically appears as a rash in the area around the groin. However, it can also appear on the:

  • upper thigh
  • scrotum
  • penis
  • anus

Jock itch is not generally serious. However, the itch it causes is often uncomfortable and can even be painful.

What are the symptoms of jock itch?

If you develop jock itch, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • discolored skin around the affected area
  • flaking, peeling, and cracking skin
  • itching, chafing, or burning in the affected area
  • fluid oozing from the rash area
  • a reddish-brown color at the center of the rash

What causes jock itch?

Jock itch develops due to fungi called dermatophytes. These fungi commonly live on hair, skin, and nails.

Dermatophytes are typically harmless. However, when the area in which they live becomes moist and warm, they can grow out of control. This is when you develop the itchy rash symptoms of jock itch.

The fungi that cause jock itch can also live on towels and clothes. They can also grow in damp and moist environments, such as locker rooms and public showers.

Learn more about fungal infections here.

Risk factors for jock itch

Although jock itch is often due to skin-to-skin contact and using contaminated towels or clothes, there are certain factors that can put you at higher risk of developing the condition.

These factors include:

  • prior experience with athlete’s foot
  • a previous experience of jock itch
  • tight clothing
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • topical steroid use
  • excessive sweating

Reducing your risk of jock itch

There are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing jock itch, including:

  • keeping your groin area clean and dry
  • using clean towels
  • avoiding sharing towels or clothes
  • washing athletic supporters, such as jockstraps, regularly
  • avoiding tight clothing
  • changing your clothing, especially your underwear, every day
  • using powder in your groin area to help keep it dry
  • treating triggers, such as obesity, diabetes, and excessive sweating
  • treating any other fungal infections you have, such as athlete’s foot

If you have athlete’s foot, use a separate towel to dry your feet, and put your socks on before your underwear.

How do doctors diagnose jock itch?

Typically, your doctor will be able to diagnose jock itch simply by looking at the area. They may also ask you questions about your symptoms and how long you have been experiencing them.

If your doctor is unsure of the diagnosis, they may take a small scraping of the affected skin in order to test it and be sure that the rash is not due to another underlying issue.

What are the treatments for jock itch?

Typically, jock itch is treatable at home. However, if you experience a more serious infection that does not clear up with at-home treatments, you should contact your doctor. They may need to prescribe a stronger antifungal medication.

Some ways you can treat jock itch at home include:

  • washing and carefully drying the affected area
  • using a separate towel for the rest of your body
  • applying an over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal cream, powder, or spray
  • changing any clothing that touches the area daily or each time you apply the antifungal treatment

You should always follow the instructions on the package for any OTC treatments. You should also be sure to use the mediation for the entirety of the recommended time, even if the rash appears to improve. If you do not use the medication for the entire time, jock itch may return.

Once you have experienced jock itch, you should be sure to take all preventive measures. This is because you will typically be more susceptible to developing it again.

Read about excessive sweating and when to contact a doctor here.

Other frequently asked questions

Here are some more questions people ask about jock itch. They have been answered by Dr. Megan Soliman, M.D.

Does scratching make jock itch worse?

Scratching can make jock itch worse, as it can allow bacteria into broken skin, which can then lead to a secondary bacterial infection.

What other conditions can people mistake for jock itch?

There are several conditions that can appear similar to jock itch.

Contact dermatitis, which can be due to several different irritants, can cause a rash similar in appearance.

Another fungus, called Candida, can also appear similarly.

Certain autoimmune conditions, such as psoriasis, can also be similar in appearance and distribution to a jock itch rash.

Therefore, if you think you have jock itch but it is not improving with regular treatment, you should contact a doctor for diagnosis and further treatment.

Summary

Jock itch is a fungal infection due to dermatophytes. These are fungi that commonly live on hair, skin, and nails.

It is typically observed in those who sweat a lot and generally appears in the groin, upper thigh, and scrotum areas.

Jock itch is treatable with OTC antifungal medications. If you experience jock itch that does not get better with OTC medications, however, contact your doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: Megan Soliman, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 May 13
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