Jock Itch: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments & Prevention

Jock Itch: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments & Prevention

Jock itch, also referred to as tinea cruris, is a fungal infection of the skin that usually develops in and around your groin, thighs and buttocks. It’s common in teenage and adult men and causes a range of symptoms, from a visible rash to itching and discomfort.

Like many other fungal skin infections, jock itch is common, especially for athletes and people who spend a lot of time doing sports and other activities that cause sweating.

Jock itch belongs to a group of fungal infections referred to by the name of tinea. It’s similar to other fungal skin infections, such as athlete’s foot and ringworm, and is often treated using the same products and medications.

While jock itch can be annoying, it’s generally easy to treat. Products such as over-the-counter antifungal creams are usually strong enough to clear up jock itch, with prescription medications also available for more severe cases.

Below, we’ve listed the symptoms you may experience if you have jock itch, as well as the risk factors that cause jock itch to develop in the first place.

We’ve also discussed the treatments that are available for jock itch and other fungal infections, from over-the-counter topical creams to prescription medications. Finally, we’ve listed a variety of tips that you can implement to prevent jock itch from coming back. 

What Is Jock Itch?

Jock itch, or tinea cruris, is a form of the tinea fungal infection that develops in the skin around the groin, buttocks and thighs. Tinea, which can also affect other parts of the skin and nails, is the most common fungal infection in humans.

Different variations of tinea are often referred to under the name “ringworm.” This name comes from the red, circular rash that tinea can cause. Jock itch is simply a form of tinea, or ringworm, that develops around the groin, thighs and buttocks.

Although we generally think of tinea as a single type of fungal infection, the reality is that many different fungi can cause tinea. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 40 different species of fungi may cause infections such as jock itch to develop.

Symptoms of Jock Itch

Jock itch typically causes the same symptoms as other tinea infections that can form elsewhere on your body. Common symptoms of jock itch include:

  • A red, raised and scaly rash that develops in the skin around your groin, buttocks and/or inner thighs. This rash can spread to near the anus but usually doesn’t develop on your penis or scrotum.

    The rash caused by jock itch often has a half-moon or ring shape. Some people notice small bumps and blisters near the edges of the affected area.

  • Itching. The rash caused by a jock itch infection often itches. It may cause a stinging or burning sensation. Sometimes, jock itch doesn’t cause itching or stinging, but just feels uncomfortable.

These symptoms usually develop between four and 14 days after you come into contact with a tinea-causing fungus.

Like other tinea infections, the symptoms of jock itch can vary in severity. Some people develop a mild rash that’s little more than an inconvenience, while other people may develop a severely itchy, uncomfortable rash with red, inflamed patches.

What Causes Jock Itch?

Jock itch is caused by the growth and spread of fungus in the skin around your groin, buttocks and thighs.

Fungi are a common source of infections and diseases. There are millions of unique species of fungi in the world, of which approximately 40 are believed to cause tinea infections such as jock itch.

Jock itch, like other forms of tinea, usually spreads in one of three ways:

  • From other people. People with tinea infections can spread them to others, either by direct contact or through shared items. If you use a shared towel or touch the skin of someone with tinea, the fungus may transfer onto your skin.
  • From animals. Tinea infections can also affect animals, including animals commonly kept as pets such as cats and dogs. It’s possible to catch jock itch or other forms of tinea after touching an infected animal.
  • From surfaces. Damp surfaces, such as those found in showers or locker rooms, are environments in which fungi can grow easily. These fungi may cause tinea infections, such as jock itch and athlete’s foot (tinea pedis).

Although it often affects the area around your genitals, jock itch is generally not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). However, since jock itch can spread through direct skin contact, it’s possible to catch or spread jock itch through sexual contact.

Risk Factors for Jock Itch

Tinea infections like jock itch can affect anyone. However, certain factors can increase your risk of developing jock itch. You may have a higher risk of getting jock itch or other tinea infections if you:

  • Have a weakened immune system. People with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop fungal infections such as jock itch. If you have a weak immune system, you may also find it more difficult to treat jock itch and prevent recurring symptoms.
  • Already have a different form of ringworm. Many people who have jock itch also have another ringworm infection, such as athlete’s foot. The fungus that causes jock itch can easily spread from your feet or nails to your groin via your hands, a towel or clothing.
  • Are male. Although jock itch can affect men and women, it’s most common in adult men and teenage boys.
  • Exercise or play sports often. Jock itch is common in athletes, hence its name. If you exercise often or compete in sports -- particularly combat sports -- you generally have a higher risk of developing jock itch or other tinea infections.
  • Use public showers or locker rooms. Fungal infections such as jock itch can spread in public showers, locker rooms and other shared facilities. Sharing towels or clothing can particularly increase your risk of developing jock itch.
  • Wear tight clothes often and for long periods. Tight clothes, such as sports clothes or a swimsuit, are a particular risk for jock itch. Clothing can trap sweat around your groin and create the moist environment in which fungal infections develop.
  • Are overweight. Jock itch is more common in people who are overweight. People with deep, moist skin folds, such as people who are obese, have a higher risk of getting tinea infections in general.
  • Live in a hot, humid environment. Just like exercising, living in a hot, humid area can increase the amount that you sweat and may contribute to a higher risk of getting fungal skin infections such as jock itch.
  • Don’t dry yourself fully after showering, bathing, swimming or sweating. This can contribute to the moist, warm environment that allows a fungal infection such as jock itch to grow and spread.

Treatments for Jock Itch

Dealing with the symptoms of jock itch can be annoying. Luckily, jock itch is usually easy to treat using a combination of over-the-counter medications and small, simple changes to your lifestyle and habits to prevent the infection from coming back. 

Over-the-Counter Antifungal Products

Jock itch can usually be treated with over-the-counter antifungal treatments, such as creams or lotions. These products contain active ingredients that are designed to kill fungi and clear your skin of rashes, itchiness and other symptoms.

Many over-the-counter antifungal medications are sold as generics, making them an affordable option if you have jock itch. Common over-the-counter medications for treating jock itch include:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Clotrimazole
  • Miconazole
  • Terbinafine 

These medications do not require a prescription and can typically be purchased from your local drug store or pharmacy. Make sure to check any packaging for the active ingredients, as these medications are sold under a diverse range of different brand names. 

Also, if you need to ask the pharmacist or store clerk for help finding the right medication, make sure to specify that you’re looking for the topical version of the above medications. 

Most of these medications are designed for daily use for a period of two to four weeks. Follow the usage instructions on the package label carefully and make sure to wash any excess cream or lotion off your hands after applying it to the affected area. 

Even if your jock itch symptoms begin to disappear within a few days of treatment, it’s important to continue using your medication for the entire treatment period. Stopping too early may cause the fungus that causes jock itch to resume growing, leading in recurring symptoms.

Prescription Medications

Most of the time, jock itch clears up with the use of over-the-counter treatments. However, if you have severe or recurring jock itch, or if your symptoms last longer than two weeks after using an over-the-counter treatment, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.

We offer online primary care for jock itch and other skin infections, allowing you to consult with a provider and, if appropriate, receive a prescription for medication that you can pick up from your local pharmacy. 

Common prescription medications for treating jock itch and other fungal skin infections include:

  • Stronger topical antifungal medications
  • Oral antifungal medications

Your healthcare provider will prescribe the most suitable medication based on your symptoms, previous jock itch issues and overall health. It’s important to closely follow the instructions that come with your medication and use it exactly as prescribed.

If you have another fungal skin infection at the same time as jock itch, such as athlete’s foot or tinea elsewhere on your body, make sure to inform your healthcare provider. It’s important that you treat both infections simultaneously to stop one from causing the other to return.

Jock itch generally responds well to medication, but it can often come back. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you continue using medication or other products after your jock itch symptoms clear up, especially if you have a high risk of recurring infections. 

Self-Care and Lifestyle Changes

In addition to using over-the-counter or prescription medication, there are several steps that you can take to help your jock itch symptoms clear up as quickly as possible:

  • Keep the affected areas clean and dry. After you shower, dry your groin, buttocks and thighs quickly and thoroughly. Make sure to clean the area frequently, especially before you apply medication.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting or irritating clothing. Try to wear loose clothes made from breathable fabrics. Avoid wearing clothing that rubs or irritates the areas affected by jock itch, including tight underwear or sports clothing.
  • Wash your clothes frequently. It’s especially important to wash athletic clothes or any other clothes that attract sweat as frequently as possible. Try to change out of sweaty or wet clothes as soon as possible after you finish exercising or swimming. 

Tips for Preventing Jock Itch

Since jock itch often comes back, it’s important to be proactive if you’ve been affected before or are prone to fungal infections. In addition to the self-care and lifestyle changes listed above, try the following techniques to reduce your risk of getting jock itch again:

  • Wear fresh clothes and underwear every day. Wearing sweaty or dirty clothes more than once, especially if they’re underwear, isn’t a good idea. Wear clean clothes every day and avoid re-wearing old clothes, even if it’s only for a short period of time.
  • Shower as soon as you finish exercising. Try to take a shower as soon as you can after working out or playing sports. After you shower, dry yourself thoroughly, making sure not to leave any moisture around your groin, buttocks or thighs.
  • Clean exercise equipment before you use it. Fungal infections like jock itch often spread through sweat, making gyms a risky area. Make sure to wipe down machines, bars, dumbbells and other exercise equipment before and after you work out.
  • Avoid sharing grooming items or clothing with other people. Personal grooming items, towels, clothing and shoes can all spread fungal infections. Make sure to only ever use your own and to avoid sharing yours with other people.
  • Wash your towels and bedding often. The fungi that cause jock itch are resilient and can survive for a long time, meaning it’s possible to reinfect yourself via an old towel or bedding even after you’ve treated your infection.

    You can reduce your risk of reinfection by washing your towels and bedding regularly, especially shortly after treating your jock itch.
  • Wear breathable cotton underwear, not synthetic fabric. Cotton is soft and very breathable, making it a better choice for underwear than synthetic fabrics. If possible, choose loose-fitting underwear that’s less likely to cause chafing and irritation.
  • If your partner has a fungal infection, make sure that they treat it. While jock itch isn’t an STD, it can spread through sexual contact. If your sexual partner has a fungal infection of any form, make sure that they seek treatment.
  • Take additional steps to prevent other fungal infections from returning. If you’ve had other fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot, it’s important to prevent these from coming back, as they can often spread back to the groin, thighs and buttocks.

    You can do this by changing into fresh socks after a workout and wearing sandals or flip-flops whenever you’re in a gym shower or locker room.
  • Look for signs of fungal infections in pets. If you have a pet dog, cat or live near other animals, pay attention for any signs of ringworm. Fungal infections can easily spread from animals to humans, potentially causing issues like jock itch.

    The CDC has information on the signs of ringworm in pets that you can use to keep yourself and your pets infection-free.

Finally, it’s important to keep in touch with your healthcare provider, especially if you need to take part in follow-up appointments. They’ll be able to monitor your progress and make sure you’re taking the right steps to prevent the infection from returning.

In Conclusion

Fungal infections such as jock itch can be annoying, especially when they keep coming back time and time again. Luckily, a variety of medications are available to help you treat jock itch and prevent it from becoming a recurring, long-term problem. 

If you think that you might have jock itch, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider. You can also talk to a provider online and, if appropriate, receive a prescription for medication to help you treat your jock itch symptoms and prevent the fungal infection from coming back.

If you’re prescribed medication for jock itch, make sure to use it exactly as prescribed and for the entire treatment period. Making small changes to your lifestyle, such as those mentioned above, can also help to keep jock itch from recurring.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.