Jock Itch Eguide
What is Jock Itch?
Tinea cruris is the Latin name for jock itch, which is a fungal infection of the groin area. It is known by other names as well, dhobi itch or scrot rot are the British names for the condition. It is also occasionally called ringworm of the groin, since the rash resembles that of ringworm. Some people mistake jock itch with a yeast infection, but the fungus that causes the infection is different as are the manifestations.
In addition to the itching and burning associated with jock itch, the rash from jock itch will be red, tan or brown and skin will appear to be dry and cracking, rippling and peeling. The fungus that causes a yeast infection will cause a more red and wet looking rash. So if the rash is dry and peeling instead of being wet and weepy, that’s a good indication that it’s jock itch. Although the fungus that causes jock itch is different from the fungus that causes yeast infections, the treatments are much the same.
Jock itch is caused by the organism Trichophyton rubrum. It is the same organism that causes athlete’s foot. Now these organisms alone are not dangerous, but when given ideal conditions to grow in, they can grow out of control and create a problem. These fungi grow in warm moist areas, such as the groin or inside sweaty socks and shoes and in women, under the breasts where the bra rests. It is a common misconception that women can’t get jock itch. They can and do, but many think that they either have a Candida yeast infection or a bacterial infection, until they see their doctor and learn otherwise.
The fungus that causes jock itch flourish in wintertime when we are wearing multiple layers of clothes and air cannot circulate next to our skin, and in the summer when we have sweaty clothes next to our skin for an extended period of time. Staying in wet swim suits, for example, will increase your chances for getting jock itch. Jock itch is also common in people who are obese, since there are multiple folds on the body where skin is in contact with itself, creating the ideal warm and moist environment for fungi to grow.
Overall jock itch is not serious but can be extremely uncomfortable. In August of 2008, the entire USC football team experienced a mass outbreak of jock itch. The problem was treated and tracked back to a new type of tight worn next to the body. Many types of clothing for athletes now comes treated to combat microbes, to help prevent jock itch and related ailments, but there is no replacement for good hygiene.
Simply staying clean and dry will usually do the trick. Treating and preventing jock itch is easy, and we’ll cover that information later on.
Jock itch is mildly contagious. It can be spread to others in towels which haven’t been properly cleaned, surfaces such as bathrooms or gym equipment that hasn’t been cleaned properly, and it can be transmitted through sexual contact as well. People who have a compromised immune system, such as diabetics, those with HIV/AIDS, or any other immune disorders have an increased risk of contracting jock itch. Also those who have atopic dermatitis, which is a genetically inherited skin condition, will also have a higher risk of developing jock itch, according to The Mayo Clinic.
Since jock itch is caused by the same kind of fungi as athlete’s foot, it isn’t uncommon to see a patient who has both. If you contract either athlete’s foot or jock itch, but not both at the same time, treat it quickly because it will easily spread, but this will be discussed in the section regarding treatment.
If you’ve had jock itch before, you’ll have a better idea if this is the same kind of itchy, scaly rash, or if it is something different.
How is Jock Itch Treated
Jock itch is simple to treat, most of the time it is easily treated with over the counter anti-fungal medications; however remember they are only about 50% effective. The most common specifically used for jock itch contain tolnaftate. Other traditional products appear to work at first but then the rash comes back. These traditional treatments contain other anti-fungal medications such as clotrimazole or miconazole, with Miconazole being the main ingredient in most vaginal yeast infection creams.
Jock itch products come in a couple different forms. Creams and ointments are convenient and easy to use, but can be messy to apply. Some fungal treatment products come in a powder form, which can be much easier to use, but may not work as intensely. The most effective way to treat jock itch would be the cream or ointment, and then follow up with the powder to help prevent re-infection. If you are at risk of contracting jock itch as discussed above, is you sweat excessively, applying powder to skin before exercise or dressing may decrease your chances of being infected.
If infected with jock itch, keeping the skin clean and dry will keep the fungi from growing out of control. Treating jock itch can take a couple of weeks to several months. Be sure to treat jock itch quickly however, because it can worsen over time. If left untreated it can be extremely uncomfortable with the itching and burning, but it can lead to permanent skin discoloration, secondary bacterial infections and even scarring.
Unfortunately, most people who contract jock itch tend to scratch the itch. This is a bad idea. Scratching skin causes microscopic tears in the skin’s surface, leaving it even more susceptible to infection from the fungi or other bacteria, and will deepen the infection. Once that happens you may not be able to treat the infection without prescription medication.
Scratching can also make the infection spread to other areas of the body. Scratching, grabbing or rubbing also makes the itching worse. By scratching it causes even more inflammation, and the more inflammation that there is, the worse the itch will be and it will just keep going.
In addition to treating jock itch with creams and powders, as mentioned earlier, skin needs to be kept clean and dry, however most soaps can actually make jock itch worse. Soaps are alkali substances, which mean that they are effective against acid. Acids keep the fungus that causes jock itch in check, so in addition to stripping moisture from the skin, soap can increase the favorability of the environment for the fungi.
Once Jock Itch has been treated, or your risk for contracting it is identified, getting rid of jock itch fungi is essential, especially in items that come in contact with the affected area, such as undergarments, towels, bed linens, bathroom and gym surfaces.
Whenever it is possible, these items should be changed of cleaned daily, and in the case of undergarments, changing more often is even better. In the case of bathroom and gym surfaces, if you can clean them after each use, great but this isn’t always easy to do when you’re out in public, for instance at the gym, but do the best you can.
Preventing Jock itch
You wouldn’t want to spread jock itch fungi on to anyone else, especially someone you share a bathroom with at home. Washable items should be washed in the hottest water possible on the longest cycle and should be washed using commercial grade germicidal bleach.
Commercial or hospital-grade disinfectants are effective in eliminating many types of organisms in the environment, such as HIV, Staph bacteria, and the stubborn ringworm, athlete’s foot, and jock itch fungi.
There is also some anecdotal evidence among the herbal medicine community that suggests things like coconut oil taken internally and rubbed on the rash will help. Many think that products like alcohol and pharmaceutical grade peroxide work as well. And while they may cure the Jock Itch rash, it may leave the site vulnerable to re-infection since it will get rid of all bacteria, good and bad.
Oil of Oregano is another product that has great promise. It is highly anti-fungal, but must be used with care since it can cause serious burns. As with all the herbal remedies, they can be combined based on what you are experiencing. For instance you can apply the coconut oil to the site after the oil of oregano. One will remove the infection and one will help with itching. You’ll have to experiment to find what works for you. But once you find out, it will be easier to cure in the event of re-infection.