Jock itch is a fungal skin infection that causes an itchy rash in warm, moist areas of the body. The rash often affects the groin and inner thighs and may be shaped like a ring. The condition is also called tinea cruris.
Jock itch gets its name because it's common in athletes. It's also common in people who sweat a lot. The condition can range from mild to serious. It usually clears up in 1 to 3 weeks with antifungal creams and self care.
Symptoms of jock itch are:
- A spreading rash that begins in the crease of the groin and moves down the upper thigh and buttocks.
- A rash whose center tends to clear as the rash spreads.
- A rash that may be full or partially ring shaped.
- A rash bordered with small blisters.
- Scaly skin.
- A rash that might be red, brown, purple or gray depending on your skin color.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if your rash is painful or you develop a fever. And seek medical care if the rash hasn't improved after a week of self-care with the type of antifungal product you can get without a prescription. Also seek medical care if the rash hasn't cleared up fully after three weeks of treatment.
Jock itch is caused by fungi that thrive in warm, moist areas of the body. Jock itch is often caused by the same organism that causes athlete's foot. The rash can spread from person to person with skin contact or from sharing contaminated towels or clothing. You can also spread an infection from the foot to groin by way of the hands or a towel.
You're at greater risk of jock itch if you:
- Are male.
- Are a teen or young adult.
- Wear underwear, jeans or other clothing that's tight.
- Sweat heavily.
- Have a weak immune system.
- Have athlete's foot.
Tips for reducing the risk of jock itch include:
- Stay dry. Keep the groin area and inner thighs dry by drying with a clean towel after showering or exercising. Dry your feet last to avoid spreading athlete's foot to the groin area.
- Wear clean clothes. Change your underwear at least once a day or more often if you sweat a lot. It helps to wear underwear made of cotton or other fabric that breathes and keeps the skin drier. Wash workout clothes after each use.
- Find the correct fit. Choose underwear, athletic supporters and sports uniforms that fit well. Tight-fitting clothes can chafe your skin and up the risk of jock itch. Try wearing boxer shorts rather than briefs.
- Don't share personal items. Don't let others use your clothing, towels or other personal items. Don't borrow such items from others.
- Treat or prevent athlete's foot. Control athlete's foot to prevent its spread to the groin. Prevent athlete's foot by wearing waterproof footwear around public pools and in showers and locker rooms.
Your doctor will likely be able to diagnose jock itch by looking at the rash. If the diagnosis isn't certain, your doctor may take a skin scraping from the affected area for testing in a lab.
For mild jock itch, your doctor may suggest using an antifungal ointment, cream or gel that you can get without a prescription. Continue to apply the medicine for at least a week after the rash clears up.
Severe jock itch or a rash that doesn't improve with nonprescription medicine may need prescription-strength creams, ointments or pills, or a combination of these products.
If you also have athlete's foot, it's usually treated at the same time as jock itch to reduce the risk of either rash coming back.
Preparing for an appointment
Your primary care provider or a skin specialist (dermatologist) can diagnose jock itch. Here are some tips to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
Before your appointment, you might want to list of questions to ask your doctor. Examples include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are tests needed to confirm the diagnosis?
- What treatments are available?
- Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- What can I do to prevent the infection from spreading?
- What skin care routines do you recommend while the condition heals?
What to expect from your doctor
Your health care provider is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
- When did you first notice your symptoms?
- What did the rash look like when it first started?
- Have you had this type of rash in the past?
- Is the rash painful or itchy?
- Have you used any medications on it already? If so, what?