DEAR DOCTOR K:
I have terrible jock itch. Please tell me how to get rid of it!
I understand your urgency. Jock itch is uncomfortable, and scratching where this rash usually appears — the inner thighs and groin — isn’t something you want to do in public.
The term “jock itch” refers to an itchy rash caused by a common skin fungus known as tinea cruris. Most often, jock itch develops when tight garments trap moisture and heat. This creates an environment in which fungi multiply and flourish. Many people with tinea cruris have athlete’s foot, too, which is also caused by a fungus.
When you have jock itch, a flat, red, itchy rash first appears high on the inner side of one or both thighs. It spreads outward in a ringlike circular pattern while the center partially clears up. Jock itch can spread to the pubic and genital regions and sometimes to the buttocks.
Because jock itch is a fungal infection, your doctor will most likely prescribe an antifungal cream or ointment for you to apply once or twice a day to the affected skin, for at least two weeks. Treatment for long-lasting infections may last one or two months.
If you have athlete’s foot, your doctor should treat that as well. Untreated athlete’s foot can cause jock itch to return: The fungus gets carried from your feet to your groin by your fingers.
Jock itch commonly comes back, so you need to be extra-cautious. Apply powder daily to help keep the area dry. Alleviate itching with an over-the-counter treatment such as Sarna lotion. Avoid hot baths and tight-fitting clothing. Men should wear boxer shorts rather than briefs.
The healthier you are, the less likely you are to get a fungal infection. Remaining healthy through diet, rest and exercise is the first step in avoiding fungal infection. Why? It hasn’t been extensively studied, but it’s probably true that a healthy and rested person’s immune system is more efficient at eliminating fungal infections.
Here are other steps you can take to remain fungus-free:
- Keep your body clean.
- Dry yourself well after showers and baths.
- Shower immediately after athletic activities.
- Wear loose clothing whenever possible.
- Do not share clothing or towels with others; wash towels frequently.
- Clean exercise equipment before use.
- Wear sandals in the shower area at the gym and swimming pool.
- Inspect the skin between your toes regularly, and apply antifungal cream at the first sign of athlete’s foot.
The name of this condition is amusing: You don’t need to be a jock to get jock itch. In fact, my patients with this condition tend to be couch potatoes. If they exercised more, they might rev up their immune systems — and get jock itch less often.