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Jock Itch Profile

Jock Itch Is a Fungal Infection that Affects the Groin

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Updated February 09, 2009

Jock itch, also known as ringworm of the groin, is caused by a fungus that infects the skin. The term “jock itch” originated because it is common in people who sweat a lot, such as athletes.

Species Name: Various species of Epidermophyton or Trichophyton fungi

Type of Microbe: Fungus

How it Causes Disease: The fungi attach and grow on keratin-containing cells, such as those found in the skin of the groin area.

How it Spreads: Jock itch is caused by a fungus that grows on the surface of the skin. Increased growth of the fungus, leading to jock itch, can occur as a result of friction from clothes or too much wetness in the groin area (i.e., from sweat). It can be spread from person-to-person through direct skin contact or through unwashed clothing.

Who’s at Risk? Jock itch typically occurs in teen or young adult males, but has also affected women who wear tight-fitting costumes or exercise clothes.

Symptoms: Jock itch appears as an itchy red or reddish-brown rash around the groin and inner thighs. The rash sometimes appears as a “ring" with defined reddish borders and normal skin color in the center. Parts of the rash may blister and ooze, but they are generally painless. Infection can also spread to the anus. The scrotum and penis are usually not affected.

Diagnosis: Jock itch is diagnosed by appearance, and additional tests are usually not necessary. If confirmation is needed, a fungal culture or microscopic examination of a skin biopsy can be used.

Prognosis: With treatment, jock itch resolves within 2 weeks. Some cases may last longer.

Treatment: Jock itch usually resolves with proper self-care, including keeping the skin clean and dry and wearing loose-fitting and non-irritating clothes. Topical over-the-counter antifungal or drying powders, such as tolnaftate, clotrimazole, or miconazole, are also usually recommended. These are applied once or twice every day for 14 to 21 days. Stronger prescription medications, such as ketoconazole, terbinafine, or oral antifungals may be needed for severe or recurrent infections. Secondary bacterial infections may require treatment with antibiotics.

Prevention: Keep groin area dry and clean; avoid tight-fitting or irritating clothes; use antifungal or drying powders if you’re susceptible to jock itch.

Sources

Jock Itch. MedlinePlus. US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Mims CA, Playfair JH, Roitt, IM, Wakelin D, Williams R, and Anderson RM. Medical Microbiology. ©1993. Mosby-Year Book Europe Limited. London, UK.

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