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Skin Care

Jock Itch

It's probably safe to assume there aren't too many of us who haven't experienced jock itch at one time or another, since it's such a common skin problem.  A nasty, annoying red rash that thrives in the moist environment of our groin (the area between our thighs and abdomen where the family jewels live) is definitely a problem that can affect all men; even those who aren't jocks.

Jock itch, also known as tinea cruris, is a contagious rash that's usually caused by various types of fungus, but can occasionally be brought on by moisture, bacterial overgrowth, and irritation.  When fungus is the cause, it can be the same culprit as the fungus that causes athlete's foot, since athlete's foot is also contagious and can spread to the groin.   Moisture and warmth, the perfect weather for bacteria to grow and prosper the same way it does under our arms, can also set the stage for this aggravating rash.  Tight clothing, especially underpants and jockstraps, and skin on skin contact, rub and irritate skin, which invites jock itch to move in and set up residency, too.  Regardless of how you get it, symptoms are basically the same and absolutely no fun!

The rash is typically flat, pink or red, and is often accompanied by red pimple like bumps, or it can be dry and scaly.  Either way, it is normally symmetrical (lucky us) and is found on the inside of both thighs, groin skin folds, and genitals, including the tip of the penis.  The rash can be localized to a small area, or full blown covering the entire groin area and bottom of the buttocks, including the anus.  I'm itchy just thinking about it!  Additional symptoms include intense itching, burning, chafing and scaling, which can present individually or all at the same time.  It ain't pretty, gentlemen.

Those who are especially at risk of jock itch are diabetics, guys with weakened immune systems, and those on broad-spectrum antibiotics.  Unfortunately, age plays a part, so older guys are more susceptible, too.  Diets high in carbs and sugars can make matters worse, so cleaning up your diet should help reduce or eliminate the big itch.  And that includes limiting alcohol consumption, too.

The good news is crotch rot is self limiting, which means even if left untreated, it should go away on its' own.  However, who wants to wait it out and endure the agony and embarrassment longer than necessary?  Fortunately, treatment is fairly simple and provides quick results.  Symptoms should clear up after two weeks of treatment, but if at any time it gets worse, is really uncomfortable, or develops lumps or swelling, see a doctor ASAP.  Another reason to see a doctor is to make sure it is jock itch and not another skin condition that mimics it.  Psoriasis, allergies, and even dandruff can be mistaken for "the itch", so if you're unsure, get to a doc for a diagnosis.

Fungal jock itch needs a topical antifungal, which is usually sufficient to clear things up.  Over-the-counter sprays, creams, and ointments are available in pharmacies and grocery stores, and are usually located with the athlete's foot products.  Many of these medications can be used on either feet or groins, since the fungus, if not the same, are in the same family.  There are also antifungal washes, which are very effective and may be a smart choice if the affected area is large.  Resistant jock itch may require prescription medication to kill the fungus off, so get to a doctor if needed.  A general practitioner and dermatologist (skin doctor) are the doctors to see for this skin problem.

The natural health industry suggests taking therapeutic doses of probiotics for those who have frequent, reoccurring or resistant jock itch.  It's believed an internal yeast/fungal infection may be the underlying cause of this condition.  A yeast overload goes hand in hand with low levels of the good bacteria we always hear we need.  The good bacteria keeps the yeast under control, so without enough of them, the yeast takes over and can really cause lots of health problems... jock itch being just one of them.  "Therapeutic doses" sounds scary, but all that means is take a probiotic supplement with high amounts of bacteria to successfully fight any possible yeast infection, versus relying on a cup of yogurt or any other food that doesn't supply high enough amounts.

Bacterial jock itch is a matter of hygiene.  No, it doesn't mean you're unclean if you get it, but you may have a situation or lifestyle that needs to be addressed in order to prevent future breakouts.  Keeping the groin clean and dry is most important.  Always shower after any physical activity that causes sweating.  This means at home, as well as at the gym.  Avoid wearing tighty whiteys, or any tight underwear.  The looser the drawers the better.  This doesn't mean everyone needs to switch to boxers, but just make sure briefs, etc., are not too tight around the legs, crotch, or waist.  Fortunately, bacterial jock itch is not contagious; however, if it persists see a doctor – you may need an antibiotic.  And how can you tell if it's bacterial and not fungal?  Bacterial jock itch glows a coral red color under a black light.  Does anyone still own one?!

No matter which type of jock itch it is, always dry off really well after a shower and wash towels frequently.  Because it usually is contagious, never share towels with anyone.  Speaking of being contagious, you can't blame your girlfriend for giving it to you, since it's pretty much a guy thing.  Yes, women can get it, but they rarely do.  When they do, it's usually under their breasts.  Speaking of girlfriends... remember to show consideration during a breakout, if you know what I mean!

Jock itch isn't for sissies.  It may be a common problem for us men, but it's still a difficult one that's very challenging to deal with.  My advice is to seek appropriate treatment as soon as you realize you've got it.  It will be much easier to eradicate in the beginning before it has time to get worse and spread.  It wouldn't hurt to frequently disinfect your tub or shower with an antifungal product.  Bleach is perfect and cheap – just be careful handling it and make sure it's safe to use at your house.  Jock itch may be an everyday sort of problem, but it doesn't have to be one of yours if you take the proper precautions to avoid it.

by Aaron Marino

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