Jock Itch (Tinea Cruris)

Overview

Jock itch is a fungal infection of the skin of the genitals, buttocks and inner thighs. The medical name is tinea cruris. Jock itch may also be called ringworm, although there is no worm. It’s an intensely itchy rash, often ring-shaped, in regions of the body which are warm and moist. It got its name because it often occurs in athletes, but anyone who sweats heavily is vulnerable to the fungus. It’s more common in overweight people. Usually it can be treated at home with various products, but if it is still present after two weeks of treatment, it’s time to seek medical attention.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Jock itch starts as a reddened patch of skin in the crease of the groin (inguinal region) and spreads down the inner thighs. The border of the rash looks like little blisters. There is some flaking and scaling. It itches, burns, and may even be painful. It’s important to diagnose it because it may be confused with psoriasis or another type of dermatitis, which are treated quite differently, with different medications. A physician may scrape the rash and view the scrapings under a microscope, visualizing the fungus directly. If no fungal organisms are found, the doctor may send a specimen to a laboratory to do a culture.

Causes

Jock itch is caused by the fungal organism Tricophyton rubrum. It thrives in damp, warm regions of the body, and where skin rubs against skin, such as the inner thighs, the crease of the buttocks, and in women primarily, under the breasts. Skin has some natural antifungal oils, but those oils are washed away by heavy sweating. There are additional factors which increase the risk of tinea cruris. Men have a higher incidence than women, tight underwear or athletic supporters increase risk, as does obesity. People who have a history of atopic dermatitis (an allergic-type reaction), other skin conditions, and an impaired immune system, are at greater risk.

The same fungus that causes jock itch causes athletes foot (tinea pedis). When either the groin or feet are involved, a person can transfer the infection to the other part of their own body, often back and forth between the two areas. Transmission occurs from person to person, and from clothing or linens used by someone with the disease, then contact with an uninfected person. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment Information . . .

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