Jock Itch Causes and Prevention

Tired young man carrying towel on shoulders and drinking water while standing in gym

Some itches are just too embarrassing to scratch. But if you've ever been, or currently are, bothered by an irritating itch "down there," you know how urgent the need to scratch can be.

Quite often, the culprit in this embarrassing pelvic itch is fungus. Wherever moisture and heat get trapped on the body, fungus can grow and cause uncomfortable itching. One of the most common types of intimate fungal infections in men is jock itch.

What's Going On Down There?

The human body is home to many different microorganisms, including fungi. Having a certain number of fungi living on the human body is normal. But when conditions favor fungi growth, such as warmth and moisture, the organisms can multiply rapidly, upsetting the natural balance.

It is typical for fungal infections to occur in the genital area, where ideal growing conditions exist. However, fungal infections can also be found on the feet, the underarms, or the fold of skin below the breast.

Jock Itch

Consisting of a red and flat itchy rash that appears on the inner thighs, tinea cruris, or jock itch, spreads outward in a circular pattern and clears in the center. The border of the ring is usually bright red and raised, and it can spread to both the genital and anal regions. It is very contagious and can be passed by direct skin contact or contact with contaminated items, such as a shared towel.

If you have jock itch, you're not alone—jock itch is second only to acne as the most commonly reported skin condition, and it's estimated that 10% to 20% of people will get a tinea infection sometime in their lives. It is usually fairly simple to cure, although symptoms may last for weeks. Your doctor will usually prescribe a topical antifungal cream that should be applied once or twice a day for 2 weeks. It is also important to keep the area clean and dry and avoid any clothing that might irritate the infected area. Infections that last more than 2 weeks or recur may require stronger antifungal treatment in either topical or oral form. Antibiotics also may be needed to treat secondary infections that can sometimes be caused by scratching.

Preventive Measures

Follow these steps to prevent jock itch altogether, which is especially important if your infection tends to recur:

  • Bathe or shower right away after a workout. Avoid using antibacterial and deodorant soaps. Dry your genital area well and apply powder, such as talc, to the skin between your leg and groin.
  • Wear loose-fitting underwear, such as boxer shorts, instead of briefs. Avoid nylon underwear. Change your underwear frequently, especially after activities that leave you hot and sweaty.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Heavier people suffer more with perspiration buildup in their groin area than people of lower body weight.
  • If you have a fungal infection on your feet or hands, treat it promptly before it has an opportunity to spread to the groin or other skin areas.

Other Causes of Itch

A yeast infection is another type of fungal infection that can cause itching. That's right, men can get yeast infections, usually following sexual contact with a woman who has a yeast infection. And if both partners are not treated, they can keep reinfecting each other. Not every man exposed to a yeast infection will get one, but men who have diabetes or are uncircumcised are at increased risk.

Fungal infections aren't the only possible cause of pelvic itching. Your skin could be irritated by sweat and tight clothing, or you could be having an allergic reaction to soaps and detergents. It could also be the result of a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, or it could even be a symptom of a sexually transmitted disease, such as chlamydia or genital herpes. Be sure to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

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