People all over the world suffer from jock itch, which is not only an uncomfortable condition but also a bit of an embarrassing one. This fungal infection is easy to contract and spread but can be difficult to eliminate, so it is important to understand as much about this common condition as possible.
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What is Jock Itch?
Jock itch is scientifically known as tinea cruris and is closely related to ringworm and Athlete’s foot, other types of tinea, a fungal infection. As with many fungal infections, the fungi behind jock itch thrives in sweaty areas of the body, as well as steamy or damp places such as showers, piles of clothes, wet towels etc. As the name suggests, “jocks” often suffer from this infection because of their time spent in locker rooms and coming in close contact with other people’s bodies and perspiration. That being said, anyone can develop jock itch, primarily in their groin, thigh, underarm or buttocks area.
While jock itch can be annoying, it is not generally considered to be dangerous; the biggest threat of this infection is spreading it to other people, so quick treatment is highly recommended.
Causes of Jock Itch
The root cause of this fungal infection are a type of fungi called dermatophytes, which can live on the surface of the skin, the hair or nails. These fungi may already be living on the skin, but when they are exposed (or treated) to an extended period of dampness, such as from sweaty clothes or towels, they will begin to multiple rapidly, leading to the recognizable rash and discomfort of jock itch.
Essentially, you can cause jock itch to “flare up” on yourself, or you can be exposed to a large amount of the fungi through close contact with other infected individuals or their unwashed clothes. At that point, the fungi can spread to various areas of your body that tend to be damp, dark or unwashed. Poor hygiene can also be the culprit behind jock itch, which is why this particular fungal infection is often seen in underprivileged or homeless populations.
Some of the other risk factors for jock itch are a weakened immune system, other fungal infections in the same area, obesity, tight clothes and undergarments, and living in a humid region.
Symptoms of Jock Itch
The symptoms of jock itch are quite easy to recognize but they always begin with a mild itching or discomfort in the area of the groin, thighs or buttocks. This itching can go from mild to severe quite quickly, making it very difficult not to scratch. It is important to note that the initial symptoms of jock itch resemble quite a few other conditions, such as contact dermatitis, heat rash and psoriasis; speaking with your doctor is the best way to confirm what inflammatory infection you have.
Following the initial itching of jock itch, a rash will soon develop and depending on how much you scratch, it may become dry, rough or covered in small, pus-filled blisters. Similar to ringworm, the infection will often be clear in the middle as the lines of redness move outwards, either towards the thighs or the genitalia. The rash can extend to the genitals, although this doesn’t always happen. It may result in a higher risk of yeast infections or vaginal discharge in women, as well as redness and soreness on the penis for men.
While this tends to be the extent of the symptoms, any breaks in the skin or blisters caused by scratching can make you vulnerable to other infections or more complex symptoms. If your symptoms aren’t responding to some of the formal and traditional treatments outlined below, it is best to seek out a dermatologist or primary care doctor.
Treatments for Jock Itch
There are many trusted treatments for jock itch, including anti-fungal creams, zinc oxide ointment and hydrocortisone.
Perhaps the most popular remedy for jock itch is a basic anti-fungal cream, such as Clotrimazole. This cream can be used for 2-4 weeks or until symptoms fully disappear. This can be purchased over the counter and doesn’t require a prescription.
Zinc Oxide Ointment
This is a popular option for athletes, as the ointment will help to keep certain areas of the skin dry, namely the groin and other perspiration-prone spots on the body. This ointment is also widely available from pharmacies and big box stores.
Similar in effect to an antifungal cream, this is a topical steroid cream that can work slightly faster and may be more concentrated. This can lead to faster recovery, but also a higher likelihood of side effects, albeit minor ones.
Home Remedies for Jock Itch
While the treatments outlined above can be fast and effective, many people turn to at-home solutions for jock itch, such as improving hygiene, avoiding certain detergents, wearing proper undergarments, using apple cider vinegar, oatmeal baths, essential oils, onion juice, aloe vera, mouthwash and lemon juice.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, apple cider vinegar also has drying qualities and anti-fungal properties, making it an ideal solution. Simply dilute the vinegar with water and use a washcloth to gently apply the mixture to the affected areas. Do this 2-3 per day for best effects, until the symptoms disappear.
One of the most important parts of preventing jock itch is to keep those areas clean and make it inhospitable for fungal infections to take hold. By regularly washing all of the cracks and crevices where sweat accumulates, particularly in the groin and thigh region. Showering at least once per day, specifically right after intense physical activity, is highly recommended for people who have jock itch.
You can extract onion juice from grated or chopped onions by placing them in a blender and then straining out the pulp. This highly concentrated juice has sulfuric compounds and other antioxidants that can quickly kill fungal infections and prevent inflammation. Gently apply this juice to the sensitive area with a washcloth, but dilute it with water, as it can cause additional inflammation or irritation.
As with so many inflammatory skin infections or conditions, brewing a bathtub of oatmeal is an excellent remedy. It can soothe inflammation and pain, while also delivering key minerals to the affected areas that will fight against the infection and speed healing time.
Wearing 100% cotton underwear is the best recommendation for people who suffer from jock itch or get it regularly. Also, this not-so-tight, cotton underwear will ‘breathe’ and allow air flow to your groin, which will cut down on perspiration and make it more difficult for the infection to take hold. Also, change your underwear every day.
Oils like calendula, tea tree, myrrh and lavender have all shown their effects against fungal infections like jock itch. However, due to the sensitive areas where this infection may be found, it is important to always dilute these oils with water or other carrier oils (coconut oil) before applying. Only 5-6 drops will be needed for you to see the effects.
Using mouthwash on your teeth helps to kill many different strains of bacteria and fungus, and the same thing is true of using mouthwash on your jock itch symptoms. Simply pour a bit of mouthwash on a cotton ball and gently dab it on the inflamed or rash area. Do this 2-3 times per day and the symptoms should clear up very quickly.
The high citric acid content and other antioxidants in lemon juice make it ideal for eliminating jock itch, ringworm and many other fungal infections. Simply mix the juice from half a lemon with a bit of water and apply this nutrient-rich, immune-boosting mixture to the rash on your groin or genitals.
Some people are more prone to irritation or perspiration based on the detergent they use, as it can weaken the immune system of the skin in that area and make fungal infections easier to contract. If you are regularly experiencing jock itch, despite treating it in the past, your cleaning products, soaps, shampoos or detergents may be to blame.
Legendary for its anti-inflammatory abilities, aloe vera gel is often turned to by those who want to clear up a particularly irritating case of jock itch. Only a small amount of this gel is required, and you should apply it 1-2 times per day, when the skin is dry, to quickly clear up the rash.