What Can Worsen The Symptoms of Jock Itch & How Do You Know If It’s Not Jock Itch?

What is Jock Itch, and What are its Symptoms?

Jock itch, or tinea cruris, is a fungal infection of the skin.(1,2,3) It is caused by mold-like fungi known as dermatophytes. Dermatophytes are microscopic fungi that naturally live on our skin, hair, and nails.(4) While dermatophytes are usually harmless, they can grow rapidly, causing infections when allowed to grow unchecked in warm and moist parts of the body. This is why jock itch usually develops in the skin around the buttocks, inner thighs, and groin.(5,6,7)

Jock itch develops when dermatophytes build up on the skin and grow out of control, causing inflammation. The common symptoms of jock itch include:

  • Scaling and dryness
  • Flaking, peeling, or cracking skin
  • Redness
  • Burning sensation
  • Persistent itchiness
  • Irritation
  • Rash that gets worse when you exercise or any other type of physical activity
  • Changes in skin color
  • Rash that does not improve or worsens, or spreads after the use of over-the-counter anti-itching creams containing hydrocortisone.

While jock itch tends to affect the inner thighs and groin, it may sometimes also spread to the buttocks and the abdomen. However, the scrotum is usually not affected.

Most cases of jock itch are usually mild and can be easily treated. However, there are certain activities and even treatments that can worsen the symptoms of jock itch and also make them last longer. Let us take a look at what things can make jock itch worse, and if you are confused, how to tell jock itch apart from other such conditions.

What Can Worsen The Symptoms of Jock Itch?

What Can Worsen The Symptoms of Jock Itch

There are several things you might be doing unintentionally to make your jock itch worse. These can include:

Having Poor Hygiene Habits: Using damp and improperly cleaned clothes or towels, not keeping your skin dry, and generally, poor hygiene habits can worsen your symptoms. (8)

Working Out: Exercising can cause the infected skin to chafe against nearby skin or with your clothing. This may cause irritation to your skin, making it more prone to a worsening infection.(9)

Having A Weakened Or Compromised Immune System: If you are taking immunosuppressants for autoimmune disorders or you have a weakened immune system from medications or underlying conditions like HIV/AIDS, kidney or liver disease, etc., it can make it more challenging for your body to fight off fungal infections. This can further worsen the symptoms.(10)

Being On The Wrong Treatment: Many people tend to self-medicate. Using an anti-itch cream such as hydrocortisone on the affected skin is not going to treat the infection, but it can definitely worsen it. This may also make the infection worse and increase the spread of the infection.

How Do You Know If It’s Not Jock Itch?

There are several conditions that look similar to jock itch but are not jock itch. This is why these conditions will not respond to the usual treatments for tinea cruris. Here are some conditions that are similar to jock itch.

Thrush or Yeast Infection

Yeast infections, commonly known as thrush, are similar to jock itch. Yeast infections are also caused by a type of fungus known as Candida. They are more common in people with vulvas, but they can also affect the head of the penis and the shaft of the scrotum, along with the skin of the groin region.(11)

Some of the common treatments for yeast infections are:

  • For mild cases, topical antifungal creams like clotrimazole (brand name Lotrimin AF) and nystatin are prescribed.(12)
  • For more severe cases, oral antifungal medications are prescribed.

Inverse Psoriasis

Inverse psoriasis is a type of psoriasis, which is an autoimmune condition that is believed to have a genetic cause. Similar to jock itch, inverse psoriasis also appears in the same spots where the skin chafes, like the inner thighs and groin. The common treatments for inverse psoriasis include:

  • Oral medications
  • Prescription topical creams
  • Biologics

How To Tell If You Are Recovering From Jock Itch?

When you avail of early and proper treatment, in most cases, you should get relief from jock itch in a month. Here are some signs that indicate that your jock itch is going away:

  • Skin starts to regain its normal color.
  • The redness or rash starts to fade away.
  • Symptoms like itchiness or irritation start to get better and eventually subside.

What Is The Treatment For Resistant Or Severe Groin Itching?

If you have a resistant or severe case of groin itching and over-the-counter topical treatment is not working, here are some things to do:

Use An Antifungal Shampoo: There are many medicated shampoos that contain selenium sulfide or ketoconazole. These shampoos make for a great treatment for persistent jock itch symptoms. They are available both over-the-counter or on a prescription. They are known for being safe and don’t usually have any side effects. The over-the-counter versions of these shampoos are readily available at most pharmacies.

Take An Antifungal Medication: Your doctor is likely to prescribe an antifungal medication in case of severe or persistent jock itch. These include topical creams like econazole (brand name Ecoza) and oxiconazole (brand name Oxistat), and/or oral medications like itraconazole (brand name Sporanox) or fluconazole (brand name Diflucan). (13,14,15)

Is It Possible To Prevent Jock Itch?

Jock itch is an easily preventable condition. Here are some tips to prevent jock itch:

  • Wash Your Hands Regularly. In the midst of a pandemic, we are all aware of the importance of regular hand washing. It is especially important to wash your hands before you are about to have food with your hands and after you touch other people.
  • Keep Your Body Dry And Clean. It is important that you keep areas around your upper thighs and groin clean and dry to prevent the build-up of moisture that makes it easy for fungi to thrive on.
  • Avoid Wearing Tight Clothing That Doesn’t Let the Skin Breathe. Wearing tight clothing can easily trap moisture and cause your skin to chafe. Wearing cotton clothes also helps your skin breathe.(16)
  • Take A Bath At Least Once A Day. While bathing, it is recommended that you use gentle and unscented soap. Make it a point to dry yourself thoroughly before wearing your clothes. If you tend to sweat profusely or if you indulge in strenuous exercise, you should consider bathing more than once a day.
  • Wear Loose-Fitting Cotton Underwear. This is recommended because it allows your thighs and groin area to ventilate. This becomes even more necessary if you live in a hot and humid climate.(17)

Regularly Wash Your Workout Clothes and equipment that your body touches after you have a sweaty workout.

If You Have Athlete’s Foot, you should make sure that you don’t use the same towel on your body and your feet. Both athlete’s feet and jock itch are caused by tinea fungi and can easily spread to one another. If you have athlete’s foot, it is important to treat the condition properly to prevent developing jock itch as well. (18,19)

Conclusion

Jock itch is an easy condition to treat, but it can come back if you are not careful and do not practice good hygiene. If you have used over-the-counter treatments but do not see any improvements in your symptoms even after two weeks, you should consider seeing a doctor. Your doctor will prescribe certain medications that can help. They will also be able to evaluate if you have jock itch or another skin condition that is very similar to jock itch.

Practicing good hygiene habits can help prevent jock itch to a large extent. Even if you get jock itch, treating it early with the correct over-the-counter topicals right after you first notice the symptoms can help prevent it from getting worse or spreading to other areas. You should definitely see a doctor if it doesn’t get better or go away after a few weeks.

References:

  1. Brodin, M.B., 1980. Jock Itch. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 8(2), pp.102-108.
  2. Johnson, L., 2003. Dermatophytes-the skin eaters. Mycologist, 17(4), pp.147-149.
  3. Weitzman, I. and Summerbell, R.C., 1995. The dermatophytes. Clinical microbiology reviews, 8(2), pp.240-259.
  4. Hayette, M.P., Seidel, L., Adjetey, C., Darfouf, R., Wéry, M., Boreux, R., Sacheli, R., Melin, P. and Arrese, J., 2019. Clinical evaluation of the DermaGenius® Nail real-time PCR assay for the detection of dermatophytes and Candida albicans in nails. Medical mycology, 57(3), pp.277-283.
  5. Martinez-Rossi, N.M., Peres, N.T. and Rossi, A., 2008. Antifungal resistance mechanisms in dermatophytes. Mycopathologia, 166(5), pp.369-383.
  6. Garg, J., Tilak, R., Garg, A., Prakash, P., Gulati, A.K. and Nath, G., 2009. Rapid detection of dermatophytes from skin and hair. BMC research notes, 2(1), pp.1-6.
  7. Crissey, J.T., 1998. Common dermatophyte infections: a simple diagnostic test and current management. Postgraduate medicine, 103(2), pp.191-205.
  8. Harris, B., 1989. Tinea Cruris: An epidemiological study with emphasis on human needs and education.
  9. Reich, D., Psomadakis, C.E. and Buka, B., 2017. Tinea Cruris. In Top 50 Dermatology Case Studies for Primary Care (pp. 181-186). Springer, Cham.
  10. Chiu, I.M., 2018. Infection, pain, and itch. Neuroscience bulletin, 34(1), pp.109-119.
  11. Whiting, K.S., 2016. Systemic Candida & Yeast Infections.
  12. Sawyer, P.R., Brogden, R.N., Pinder, K.M., Speight, T.M. and Avery, G.S., 1975. Clotrimazole: a review of its antifungal activity and therapeutic efficacy. Drugs, 9(6), pp.424-447.
  13. Webster, S.B., 1984. How I manage jock itch. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 12(5), pp.109-113.
  14. Sharmila, B., 2008. Efficacy of Topical 1% Fluconazole Gel in Dermatophytosis (Doctoral dissertation, Stanley Medical College, Chennai).
  15. Crissey, J.T., 1998. Common dermatophyte infections: a simple diagnostic test and current management. Postgraduate medicine, 103(2), pp.191-205.
  16. Nazarko, L., 2010. Fungal skin infections and HCAs: identify, treat and act. British Journal of Healthcare Assistants, 4(11), pp.551-553.
  17. WOODHAMS, L., 2011, November. The Knicker Study: a survey to determine the incidence of underwear rashes in hot and humid environments. In Australasian Journal of Dermatology (Vol. 52, No. 4, pp. A3-A3). COMMERCE PLACE, 350 MAIN ST, MALDEN 02148, MA USA: WILEY-BLACKWELL.
  18. Achterman, R.R. and White, T.C., 2012. A foot in the door for dermatophyte research. PLoS Pathog, 8(3), p.e1002564.
  19. Millikan, L.E., 1975. ‘Athlete’s Foot’—Scratching Beneath Surface of Fungal Ailments. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 3(4), pp.51-56.

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