Jock itch is usually an itchy rash in the fold of skin in the groin. In men, the skin fold beneath the scrotum is often affected as well, but not the penis. The skin over the testicles (scrotum skin) is seldom affected. The rash is red and slightly scaly. It usually has a sharp border, demarcating it clearly from the unaffected skin. If you look closely at the border, you may see that the edge is very slightly raised with small pimples. The rash spreads outwards and, as it does so, the centre may clear. Both sides are usually affected, but the shape of the rash may be different on each side.
Jock itch is sometimes known as ‘sweat rash’, but it is not caused by sweat. The actual cause is a tinea fungus – the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot. In fact, jock itch is probably ‘caught’ from your own feet. Check between your toes for the red, scaly appearance of athlete’s foot. Athlete’s foot is very common in people who do a lot of sport, because it is easily caught from the floors of communal changing rooms and showers. These fungi are typically harmless, but they can multiply quickly.
What to Do
Although sweat does not cause the rash, the fungus does thrive in warm, moist, sweaty conditions, so you can help yourself by:
- not wearing tight underpants – wear boxer shorts rather than briefs
- wearing 100% cotton underpants instead of synthetic fabrics
- drying yourself carefully in the groin and around the testicles after bathing or showering
- using baby powder prevents excessive moisture
- losing weight if you have a paunch
- looking after your feet to avoid athlete’s foot (look at the section on sweaty feet)
- do not use the same towel you use for your feet and for your groin
- putting your socks on before your underpants when you get dressed, to prevent fungi from your feet getting inside your underpants.
Fungi also thrive on skin that is slightly damaged. Skin damage is commonly caused by perfumes in soaps, shampoos and shower gels, and enzymes in washing powders. So, you can help yourself by:
- washing with an unperfumed soap
- if you wash your hair in the shower, not letting the foam run down your body into the groin creases
- not using ‘enzyme’ or ‘biological’ washing powders for your underpants.
These self-help measures will discourage the fungus but probably will not eliminate it, so see your doctor for an antifungal cream. Your doctor can also check that the rash is not some other skin problem (such as scaly skin).
Jock Itch without a Rash
Sometimes the groin area can be very itchy but there is no rash to be seen. In this case, a fungal infection is unlikely. Probably your skin is very sensitive to soaps and perfumes, so follow the advice above and look at the section on itching.
First published on: embarrassingproblems.com
Reviewed and edited by: Fiona Elliott
Last updated: December 2020