Male Health Corner

Jock Itch


Jock itch is the popular name given to an itchy rash in the groin that commonly involves the inner thighs and adjacent skin, including the scrotum in males. The medical name for this condition is “intertrigo.” Jock itch is associated with sweating, friction/abrasion and sealing in moisture and heat by adjacent clothing, and the direct rubbing of skin on skin. The rash may affect not only the groin, but it can involve any areas of skin that overlap, including around the anus and in the various skin folds of obese individuals. Jock itch affects men and occasionally women throughout the world.

Risk Factors

Major risk factors include the following:

  • Heat
  • Humidity
  • Tight clothing
  • Damp skin folds as may occur with obesity or excessive sweating

Several microorganisms have been identified as causing the rash. Other skin diseases may mimic jock itch. They include:

  • psoriasis
  • allergic contact dermatitis
  • hidradenitis suppurativa
  • seborrheic dermatitis

Jock Itch Causes

Although the term “jock itch” implies some sort of relationship with athletics, this is not necessarily true. Jock itch is particularly related infections from microorganisms and environmental factors such as humidity and friction, which can irritate the skin. Jock itch is more common in men than in women simply because the presence of male genitalia leads to increased friction and humidity. Women are actually predisposed to develop a similar condition underneath their breast. Jock itch is most often caused simply by noninfected skin affected by friction, humidity, and heat. However, it is not uncommon for microorganisms like fungi and bacteria to simultaneously infect the skin.

People taking broad-spectrum antibiotics, those with weakened immune systems, or those who have diabetes are at risk to develop the rash.Occasionally, bacteria can cause jock itch. Bacterial jock itch can be easily diagnosed because the affected skin glows a coral red color when illuminated by a black light.Wearing tight clothes or athletic supporters can predispose one to infection or aggravate the problem further. Jock itch can be prevented by applying large amounts of lubricant, like petroleum jelly, to areas likely to be affected.

Intimate contact or contact with objects that harbor fungus can contaminate the groin skin. The fungus is spread by contact with the spores, which may survive on dead skin cells or objects for a long time. If you have fungal infection, such as athlete’s foot, the same organism may cause a rash in your groin. Infections caused by Candida albicans (a yeast) can produce pustules and involve the tip of the uncircumsized penis. This infection is seen more often in people with diabetes. Fungal molds like Epidermophyton floccosum and Trichophytin species are occasionally responsible for the epidemic infections in dormitories, barracks, and similar situations in which people live close together and in which towels, sheets, blankets, and other items may harbor a fungus for years.

Jock Itch Symptoms

The acute infection begins with an itchy area of redness in a skin fold. The area may enlarge, and other sores may develop in no particular pattern. The rash appears as raised red plaques (platelike areas) with sharp borders. The border may exhibit tiny pimples or even pustules with central areas that are reddish and dry with small scales. If you become infected with yeast organisms, the rash tends to be redder and moist. The skin of the tip of the penis may be involved, whereas other organisms spare the male genitalia. Women who also have vaginal infection experience vaginal itching and white, thick, cottage cheese-like discharge with candidiasis. The rash becomes more irritating with time and may, in severe cases, feature breakdown of the skin that is quite uncomfortable.

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