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Jock itch

Definition

Jock itch is an infection of the groin area caused by fungus. The medical term is tinea cruris, or ringworm of the groin.

Alternative Names

Fungal infection - groin; Infection - fungal - groin; Itching in the groin; Ringworm - groin; Tinea cruris; Tinea of the groin

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Jock itch occurs when a type of fungus grows and spreads in the groin area.

Jock itch occurs mostly in adult men and teenage boys. Some persons who have this infection also have athlete's foot and ringworm.The fungus that causes jock itch thrives in warm, moist areas.

Jock itch can be triggered by friction from clothes and prolonged wetness in the groin area, such as from sweating.

Jock itch can be passed from one person to the next by direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with unwashed clothing.

Symptoms

Jock itch usually stays around the creases of the upper thigh and does not involve the scrotum or penis. Jock itch may spread to the anus, causing anal itching and discomfort. Symptoms include:

  • Red, raised, scaly patches that may blister and ooze; patches often have sharply-defined edges. 
  • Patches are often redder around the outside with normal skin tone in the center.
  • Abnormally dark or light skin. Sometimes, these changes are permanent.

Signs and tests

Your health care provider can usually diagnose jock itch based on how your skin looks.

Tests are usually not necessary. If tests are needed, they may include:

Treatment

Jock itch usually responds to self-care within a couple of weeks:

  • Keep the skin clean and dry in the groin area.
  • Do not wear clothing that rubs and irritates the area. Wear loose-fitting underwear.
  • Wash athletic supporters frequently.
  • Over-the-counter antifungal or drying powders can help control the infection. These contain medicine, such as miconazole, clotrimazole, terbinafine or tolnaftate.

You may need treatment by a health care provider if your infection lasts longer than 2 weeks, is severe, or frequently returns.  The health care provider may prescribe:

  • Stronger topical (applied to the skin) antifungal medicines or oral antifungal medicines
  • Antibiotics may to treat bacterial infections that occur from scratching the area

If you tend to get jock itch, continue to apply antifungal or drying powders after bathing, even when you do not have jock itch.

Expectations (prognosis)

Jock itch usually responds promptly to treatment. It is often less severe than other tinea infections, such as athlete's foot, but may last a long time.

Other causes of itching in the groin include:

Calling your health care provider

Call your doctor if jock itch does not respond to home care after 2 weeks or you have other symptoms.

References

Elewski BE, Hughey LC, Sobera JO, Hay R. Fungal diseases. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 77.

Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 13


Review Date: 5/15/2013
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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