Smiling man in white T-shirt happy after Canesten jock itch treatment

Everything to know about jock itch

Find out more about jock itch and its causes. Learn about jock itch symptoms, treatment options and prevention methods.

What is jock itch?

What’s as easy to catch as an athlete's foot, but can be much more uncomfortable? It’s jock itch (also known as tinea cruris), a fungal groin infection that is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes.1

It is a skin infection that affects your groin area - genitals, inner and upper thighs and buttocks - causing a red, itchy, ring-shaped rash that appears on your skin. Dermatophytes can spread easily through scratching. Thus, if you have athlete’s foot or a  nail fungal infection, you are more at risk of catching jock itch. Normally, dermatophytes live harmlessly on your skin, hair and nails, but can multiply quickly and cause infection when there is a warm and moist environment, for example if you remain in sweat-soaked clothes.2

Jock itch mostly affects men and adolescent boys because moisture can get trapped between the scrotum and thigh. As the name suggests, it often appears in athletes too because they sweat a lot, and wear tight and wet clothes for long periods of time. If you are overweight, you are more likely to experience jock itch because the fungus can thrive in folds of skin, which are prone to sweating.3 But jock itch can affect anyone because it is highly contagious. You can get it through close contact with an infected person but also through contaminated towels, clothes and your hands if you touch other infected areas like your foot.

Typical causes of jock itch:

  • wearing clothes that are tight and irritate your skin

  • prevalence of moisture in your groin area from sweating

  • leaving on a wet bathing suit for a long time

  • sharing damp towels or sweaty clothing

  • being in close contact with someone infected 4

Symptoms of jock itch

Jock itch can be uncomfortable, embarrassing and annoying, but it is important that you recognise the symptoms so you can treat it quickly. It often starts with a red, itchy rash with raised edges that can be painful. The rash then spreads out from the crease in the groin in a half-moon shape onto the upper thigh.

  • burning sensation around the affected area

  •  flaking, cracked or peeling skin

  •  scaly, red or brown patches 5

Jock itch can also spread to the inner thighs and genitals, causing itchy skin irritation on the penis, scrotum, labia or vaginal opening 6, as well as the anus.

You should see a doctor if your rash doesn’t improve within 7 days of starting treatment. You should also seek doctor’s advice if jock itch returns within a few weeks after treatment with an antifungal medication.7 

Smiling young man standing confidently and wearing grey T-shirt, happy after Canesten jock itch treatment

Jock itch treatment

Make sure that you treat jock itch as soon as you notice the symptoms to prevent the infection from spreading. Otherwise the infection can last for months if you don’t. You can effectively treat it at home using over the counter antifungal medications in the form of antifungal cream, powder, or spray.8 Remember to continually use the cream even when symptoms disappear, as per label indications, to minimize recurrence.

Antifungal cream treats the infection and relief the uncomfortable symptoms.

Treating jock itch? These measures can help you get rid of it faster:

  • Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and warm water. 

  • Dry the affected area thoroughly after bathing and exercise. 

  • Change clothes and undergarments every day. 

  • Wear loose cotton clothing. 

  • Complete the full course of treatment, even if your infection may look like it’s clearing.9

Jock itch prevention

Practicing good hygiene can help to prevent jock itch. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after contact with someone infected, after touching an infected area (like with athlete’s foot), or after applying treatment. Athlete’s foot is caused by the same fungi that causes jock itch. If you catch it, you should treat the infection quickly to prevent it from spreading to your groin area.10

Other tips include:

  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing during training and avoiding synthetic fabrics.

  • Ensure correct hygiene and keep your groin area dry, especially after washing or exercising.

  • Choosing to wear only cotton underwear and changing it daily.

  • Changing your towels regularly and avoiding use of the towels available in communal areas.

  • Using different towels for the infected areas, and for the rest of your body.

  • Not sharing your personal items, clothes or towels.11,12

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Tinea Cruris, in: Hainer, B.L., Dermatophyte Infections, in: American Family Physician 2003, vol. 67, Number 1, p. 106
  2. What is jock itch? And What causes jock itch, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/jock-itch
  3. What is jock itch? And What causes jock itch, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/jock-itch
  4. What causes jock itch? and How can jock itch be prevented?, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/jock-itch
  5. What are the symptoms of jock itch?, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/jock-itch
  6. Tinea Cruris, in: Hainer, B.L., Dermatophyte Infections, in: American Family Physician 2003, vol. 67, Number 1, p. 106
  7. When should I see my doctor about jock itch?, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/jock-itch
  8. How is jock itch treated?, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/jock-itch
  9. Ibid.
  10. How can jock itch be prevented?, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/jock-itch
  11. How can jock itch be prevented?, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/jock-itch
  12. What to do, in: Tinea Pedis, Tinea Cruris, Tinea Corporis , in: Buttaravoli, P., Minor Emergencies, 2012, Elsevier Saunders, p. 736