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Jock itch

Definition

Jock itch, also called tinea cruris or ringworm of the groin, is an infection of the groin area caused by fungus.

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

The body normally hosts a variety of bacteria and fungi. Some of these are useful to the body. Others can multiply rapidly and form infections. Jock itch occurs when a particular type of fungus grows and multiplies in the groin area.

Jock itch occurs mostly in adult men and adolescent boys. It can sometimes accompany 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 may be contagious. It can be passed from one person to the next by direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with unwashed clothing. Jock itch usually stays around the creases in the upper thigh and does not involve the scrotum or penis. It is often less severe than other tinea infections, but may last a long time. Jock itch may spread to the anus, causing anal itching and discomfort.

Other causes of itching in the groin include:

See also: Vaginal itching

Symptoms

  • Itching in groin, thigh skin folds, or anus
  • Red, raised, scaly patches that may blister and ooze -- The patches often have sharply-defined edges and are often redder around the outside with normal skin tone in the center
  • Abnormally dark or light skin

Signs and tests

Your doctor will usually diagnose jock itch based on the appearance of the skin. Tests are usually not necessary. If tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis, either a culture or a skin lesion biopsy (for example, a scraping of the skin) may show the fungus that causes jock itch.

Treatment

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

  • Keep the skin clean and dry.
  • Don't wear clothing that rubs and irritates the area.
  • Apply topical over-the-counter antifungal or drying powders, such as those that contain miconazole, clotrimazole, or tolnaftate.

Severe infections, frequently recurring infections, or infections lasting longer than two weeks may require further treatment by your doctor. Stronger prescription medications, such as those containing ketoconazole or terbinafine, or oral antifungals may be needed. Antibiotics may be needed to treat bacterial infections that occur in addition to the fungus (for example, from scratching the area).

Expectations (prognosis)

Jock itch usually responds promptly to treatment, but some cases last a long time.

Complications

  • Permanent change in the skin color of the area
  • Secondary bacterial skin infections
  • Side effects of medications

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.

Prevention

  • Keep the groin area clean and dry.
  • Don't wear clothing that rubs and irritates the area. Avoid tight-fitting and rough-textured clothing.
  • Wear loose-fitting underwear.
  • Wash athletic supporters frequently.
  • After bathing, apply antifungal or drying powders if you are susceptible to jock itch.

References

Andrews MD, Burns M. Common tinea infections in children. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:1415-1420.


Review Date: 4/17/2009
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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