Jock Itch is a fungal infection that attacks the surface layer of skin around the groin, buttocks and where the thighs join at the waist. Typically, it is brought about by a fungus belonging to a group called Dermatophytes. Candida Albicans, the common yeast is also known to create this infection.
Jock itch (tinea cruris) is most commonly associated with athletics. The nature of most athletes as well as their uniforms are ample locations for jock itch to develop and spread. When the body sweats profusely and is coupled with tight-fitting garnets with little space for the skin to breathe, can induce jock itch. The condition is not serious in nature, and can be treated with topical fungal medications. These prescriptions will reduce swelling, itching and spread of the infection to other portions of the body.
The infection is not serious, but it is extremely contagious. Sharing gym towels or other items commonly associated with athletics, can harbor the infection. The fungus responsible for jock itch is associated with athlete's foot. The infection can spread from the genital areas, thighs, and feet.
While the causes are particular in nature, the risk factors for jock itch can vary in a number of ways. Some of these risk factors my seem obvious, while others are less physically apparent. Young adults and teens are likely to contract jock itch due to the proximity to others in schools and athletic facilities. Obesity can play a major role as well, as skin that tends to roll over itself creates pockets that can harbor the infection. Sweating heavily is also a prime risk factor.
While there are common, seemingly obvious causes of jock itch, the less visible risk factors are just as likely to help develop the infection. Diabetics are known to be more susceptible to jock itch through clinical study. Having a weakened immune system is also considered a risk factor.
The affected areas develop a reddish-brown rash that triggers enormous itching, continuous irritation, and a burning tingling sensation. The infection is contagious, and can be acquired through direct body contact and through toilets and washrooms in public places.
But every little itch in one’s private parts is not necessarily jock itch, and if symptoms persist a qualified dermatologist needs to diagnose the problem in order to treat it effectively. This is how the dermatologist diagnoses jock itch when you pay him a visit.
Your medical history may provide a clue
Families that have a history of skin diseases are genetically predisposed to fungal infections. People in the high-risk category need to take extra precautions in maintaining proper body hygiene. They must also follow healthier skincare practices. Treatment for such individuals may continue for an extended duration.
The fact that the patient may be predisposed to sweating profusely will also mark him as a prime candidate for fungal infections. Specially medicated soaps and water absorbent powders may be prescribed.
The outer pattern of infection is recognizable
The Dermatophyte group is divided into three fungi called Microsporum, Trichophyton, and Epidermophyton. The infection they cause is externally identifiable due to its spiral and wavy pattern. The central portion will be tender, raised, and reddish-brown in color. The outer edges will be wavy, rough and scaly. The skin surrounding the infection may become lighter or darker compared to normal skin.
The areas of infection are predominantly the groin or buttocks
The fungus infects only the surface of the skin and feeds on dead keratin shed by skin, hair, and nails. The fungus survives and multiplies only in areas that are warm, wet and perpetually in friction like the groin. Wearing tight undergarments or skin hugging sportswear like spandex worsens the problem as skin rubs against the skin, and skin clashes with the fabric.
Areas prone to infection are the folds of skin located in the upper thighs just below the scrotum in men or the vagina in women. The infection may also spread to the gluteal cleft, especially in the area surrounding the anus and below the folds of the buttocks. In women the area just below the bikini line in the crotch is most vulnerable to infection.
Some infections reach the follicular level
The fungi feed on dead keratin shed by surface cells of the skin’s outermost layer. For this reason, the fungus thrives only in the moist and warm interiors of the crotch. The skin in such areas frequently chafes and rubs, scattering dead cells and keratin. Sometimes, the infection penetrates the outer skin and affects hair follicles. Follicle infection, if detected, requires a more comprehensive treatment.
Diagnostic tools that differentiate bacterial and fungal infections from other skin conditions
- Culture test for fungal infection
Scrapings of the skin, hair or nails may be taken from the affected area and grown in a semi-solid nutrient solution, to be given the opportunity for any fungi present to grow for identification. But, this normally takes a couple of weeks to produce results and may not be suitable for someone requiring an immediate diagnosis.
- Confirming fungal infection through KOH test
There may be instances when the skin problem is persistent and has defied conventional therapy. In such cases, the dermatologist may scrape away some of the affected skin to perform a KOH test, also known as a Potassium Hydroxide skin test. This helps differentiate jock itch from other skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
- The Wood’s Lamp Test
The dermatologist keeps the patient in a dark room and exposes the affected skin to an ultraviolet light source called the Wood’s Lamp. The doctor then observes changes in color and tone of the skin. This technique confirms whether the infection is bacterial or fungal.
Getting properly diagnosed is the first step towards ensuring the right treatment is implemented. Depending on the severity of the problem, the doctor will prescribe anti-fungal ointments, antibiotic creams, sprays or moisture absorbing powders.
Besides the tailored treatment options you may be prescribed by a doctor, there are a number of self-management techniques you can implement at home. These steps will help reduce the risk of jock itch infection and future contractions of the fungus.
As stated earlier, staying dry, especially in areas susceptible to jock itch is very important. Keeping the thighs, groin, and other areas dry will prove beneficial. If it is available, use power post-shower or workout to keep the area as dry as possible.
Tight clothing harbors jock itch profusely. So, changing your clothes, specifically your underwear once or twice a day is recommended, especially if you sweat a lot. Be sure to wash your work out clothes as often as possible. Under no circumstances, should you ever share personal items such as towels and clothing. These items can contain the fungus, and enable the spread of the infection to others.
Before visiting a dermatologist, be sure to have a clear understanding of the infection itself, along with any questions you may have on treatment and preventative measures. This will enable you to avoid future contractions of the fungus. Be sure to keep in mind any medications or underlying conditions you may or may not have, as this can affect both diagnosis, and treatment options. Be sure to communicate any personal health complications with your dermatologist.