Many men will suffer the pain and inconvenience of jock itch at some time during their lives. The itchy feeling in the groin may be painful enough to wake you at night. The good news? Jock itch can be treated, usually inexpensively and at home, and some basic preventive maintenance can keep it from coming back.
What's So Itchy?
One day you are walking around pain-free, and the next day you notice an irritation in your groin, a little redness, perhaps, or a touch of scaliness. You do not pay any attention to it, chalking it up to a rash or some minor discomfort. The next thing you know, you have called your dermatologist begging for relief from a burning sensation between your thighs.
What Causes Jock Itch?
Jock itch is caused by a fungal infection. Warm, moist areas are the best environments for fungi to grow. You may be at a higher risk of getting jock itch if you wear wet, damp, or dirty clothes; share towels that are infected with the fungus; perspire a lot; or wear tight clothing.
What You Can Do
First, make sure you have what you think you have. Jock itch is characterized by red skin and a discernible border between the part of your thigh that is affected and the part that is not. Jock itch almost never involves the scrotum or penis. But, a couple of other conditions mimic jock itch and its symptoms.
One is called intertrigo, a skin irritation caused when the body folds rub against each other. It becomes worse when you are hot and sweaty. Symptoms include redness and peeling. Another condition is a form of seborrhea that is related to dandruff and is marked by dry, cracking skin. Erythrasma (a bacteria infection) and psoriasis are other common conditions that may mimic jock itch.
If you notice something reddening your groin, do not wait for it to get worse. It is much easier to treat in the early stages. Most forms of jock itch respond to over-the-counter products.Miconazole , tolnaftate , terbinafine, and clotrimazole are common medicines sold without prescription. Be sure to buy a product that is specifically for jock itch. Medicine for athlete's foot, another fungal infection, may be too harsh.
Medicines come in lotions, sprays, powders, and creams. Be sure to carefully follow the directions for using the medicine. The fungus can return if not properly treated.
Keep your groin dry and clean. This denies the fungus a chance to reproduce. Dry the area thoroughly after showering, and dry your feet after you dry your groin. There is some thought that you can carry jock itch fungus from your feet to your groin on clothing or a towel, especially if you shower in public places.
Since poorly washed towels can carry the fungus, use only clean towels. Also, wear cotton underwear, since it breathes. And if you are a brief man, consider boxers. The latter increase the flow of air to the groin and promotes drying.
Know When to Bring in the Big Guns
If none of the above is working, see your doctor. The good news is that doctors can treat even the most chronic cases. Treatment may involve prescription medicine that sometimes includes oral antifungals.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 06/2012 -
- Update Date: 06/02/2012 -