What is Jock Itch and What Causes Jock Itch?
Anyone who has ever suffered from jock itch will tell you what a nuisance it is. It might not quite end your world, but a relentless itching and burning in the nether regions is not something any guy wants to experience. Today, gents, you’re going to learn more about jock itch. In a Sun Tsu-ian approach, we’re going to get to know the enemy. We’ll discover what it is, how it works and how to beat it. Fear not; it’s an easy war to win if you invest just a few short minutes of reading.
The Medical Answer
If you’re in med school, jock itch is called tinea cruris (don’t ask how to pronounce it). This is a fungal infection that can target the genitals, the inner thigh, and the butt. It likes warm, moist spots on your body, so anything that gets sweaty and stinky under your shorts is a prime target. As the name implies, the most common symptom is itching, but we’ll get more into that in a minute. What’s worth noting is that jock itch comes from the same fungus as athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), so the symptoms, treatments, and everything else are similar. Since we’re getting medical, you can see that the first word in the medical names for these conditions is the same. That refers to the infection. The second name describes where the infection occurs. To really get into the nuts and bolts, there are alternative causes of what many would still call jock itch, but they are pretty uncommon. We're mostly going to skip the obscure stuff and stick to dealing with the normal fungus for today's discussion.
How to Recognize Jock Itch
Alright. That’s enough nerdiness for today. The real question that many guys have is, how do you distinguish between jock itch or normal itchiness? Everybody gets itchy balls now and then. When should you be worried? The first answer is that you pretty much shouldn’t be worried. Even if you have jock itch, it’s more annoying than dangerous, and you’re going to learn how to take care of it in a minute.
Still, it’s important to know when it’s time to run to the pharmacy and get a special cream. The biggest identifier of jock itch is a red rash. You can Google images to get an idea, but be prepared for some gross pictures. You might prefer to Google athlete's foot instead. The rash looks the same. If you're particularly squeamish, then even the athlete's foot pictures might not be your thing. You've been fairly warned.
Aside from the rash, jock itch can cause raised blisters on your skin. We’re not talking about plague-level stuff here, but red, raised skin should convince you that this is more than just a little dry skin. Plenty of times, the itch will be accompanied by a mild burning sensation. Less commonly, it can turn the affected skin flaky or scaly. Those are your big identifiers. If you have a persistent itch and/or any of these other symptoms, read on. You have important lessons to learn.
Common Ways to Get It
Ok. We know how to identify jock itch. We also know that it’s caused by a fungus. So, how do you actually get infected? Mostly, fungi like this spread by touch. If you share a towel with someone who has the rash, there’s a good chance for you to get it too (no one actually does this, right?). That means that locker rooms are one of the most common places to pick up a little jock itch. It can actually survive on the floor, benches and other hard surfaces for a while. So, you set your towel or change of clothes down, and they can pick it up.
A lot of people also get jock itch from their own athlete's foot. Based on what you just read, putting underwear on over an infected foot could spread the problem to other parts of your body. You already know to wear flip flops in the locker room and public showers. This is why.
Now, this isn’t cause to rabidly disinfect every surface of the locker room or carry a plastic sheet everywhere you go. Just try to limit exposure to damp, public surfaces. Also, rotate your workout clothes and towels. We’ll get a little deeper into this in a minute.
Here’s the last bit you need to know about contracting jock itch. There are certain risk factors that make you more likely to get the itch. Men get it way more than women. Being overweight, a heavy sweater, wearing tight underwear, or having diabetes all increase risk. None of these mean you’ll definitely suffer, but if you check any of these boxes, pay extra attention to the prevention section.
Jock itch is treated just like athlete’s foot, but you want to be a little careful. The crotch is more sensitive than the foot, so keep that in mind when you shop for a cream. So, the most important step in stopping jock itch is to keep the infected area dry. This means changing clothes (especially underwear) regularly. It sometimes means curbing the workout for a bit until you get things under control. It also means you want to be meticulous about showering after workouts, drying thoroughly after showering, and deliberately using clean towels and clothes at all times.
The second part of treatment is an antifungal medication. They’re usually topical and come in creams. As you just read, make sure the cream is rated for the crotch. You don’t want to turn your jock itch into jock “Oh my God, it burns!” How do you use the antifungal? Just follow the directions. It’s not rocket science.
Now, if your itch doesn’t show improvement within a week or two, it’s time to see the doctor. Likewise, if it comes back frequently, go ahead and get a professional opinion. While jock itch is usually pretty harmless, ignoring these two things can lead to something worse. Don’t mess around.
Whether you’ve had jock itch before or not, it’s in your best interest to prevent it. The key steps are pretty easy. Like you already read, wear flip flops in the shower, don’t share towels, and rotate your towels and workout clothes. The fungus needs moisture to survive. Your goal in managing your locker room equipment and attire is to deny the fungus that moisture. If things stay dry, you’re better off.
In the interest of dryness, there’s a lifestyle adjustment that can help a lot. Trimming the hedges is a great way to stop your pubes from trapping moisture that helps the fungus. When you pair a little manscaping with moisture-wicking underwear, you pretty much win the battle before it starts. You can go a step further by using ball deodorant to keep things dryer and more pleasant down there. The good stuff will use talcum or a talcum alternative. It helps manage moisture in a way that prevents infection without leaving you too dry. Additionally, anything that helps with pH control is great for fighting fungal infections. Manscaped.com is a great place to break into all of this.
The last prevention tip is to shower better. Hopefully you already use soap, but that’s not good enough. Most guys scrub too hard or too little in the shower. When you scrub too hard, you create small tears in your skin where the fungus can hide and grow. When you scrub too little, you get a buildup of oil and dead skin that offers a similar hiding space. Instead, you want to gently exfoliate with soap. That will do the trick. Of course, whatever you use to exfoliate needs to be clean and dried between uses. For the most part, you just need to rinse it thoroughly after you’re done scrubbing and hang it where it can get dry. If that’s not enough, you can rotate wash cloths, loofahs or whatever you use if needed.
That about covers it. You have the knowledge; it’s up to you to use it. If you want to learn more about jock itch, you can always read up on medical news and the like. For those who skipped to the bottom, just keep your junk dry and clean and you’ll usually be fine. So, until next time, take care of your junk and have a pleasant day.