Healthy Living

What Is Jock Itch?

The anatomy of a fungal skin infection and its signs and symptoms

What Is Jock Itch?

Key Takeaways

  • Jock Itch is a fungal infection that affects both men and women and is usually seen to afflict the groin and genital area.   
  • The spores of these fungal organisms travel and get transmitted through touching and body contact. 

The Causative Agent of Jock Itch is a Fungus

Jock Itch is a fungal infection that affects both men and women, usually in the groin and genital area. The infective agents are fungal organisms of the dermatophyte group. They are more commonly identified as Trichophyton rubrum and Epidermophyton floccosum. The kind of skin infection these organisms cause is called Dermatophytosis.

The Fungus Spreads Through Contact

The spores of these fungal organisms are transmitted through contact. The organisms commonly grow in the genital zone primarily because we touch and wash our genital area more often in the shower and in handling towels. Contact with contaminated persons and articles transmit spores directly to the groin.

Dormant Spores Are Activated When Groin Conditions Are Ideal

A few fungal spores are normally always present on the surface of our skin. They remain on the outer surface and do not cause any harm until conditions for growth are optimal. In order for the fungus to thrive, it needs the support of three major influences:

  • The skin is moist and warm: This is the main reason why fungal infections peak after rains and in hot, humid conditions.
  • The skin sweats excessively: This usually happens after exercise or strenuous sporting activity. It could also be due to hot weather.
  • The skin suffers more friction and less aeration: Wearing tight shorts, briefs, panties or spandex sportswear packs the hair closer to skin and creates friction.

Other Conditions Encouraging Fungal/Yeast Attacks

Over and above the top three conditions that stimulate the growth of the Jock Itch fungus, there are three other conditions that help out largely.

  • High blood sugar

Higher levels of blood sugar - such as in diabetic patients - has a direct connection to the growth of fungal and yeast microbes on the skin. Confronted with high glucose levels, the body tries to eliminate excess glucose through urine - necessitating frequent trips to the urinal. If the body doesn’t replenish lost water, it becomes dehydrated. The skin dries up, creating an itchy sensation. These are ideal situations for opportunistic microbes like fungi and candida to infect the outer layer of skin.

  • High body mass index

Obesity also sensitizes people to skin infections. A higher body mass creates innumerable skin folds where skin rubs against skin. This creates abundant crevices that are ideal for fungal infections to grow. The folds in the groin increase the surface area exposed to fungal attack. Obesity also slows down movement fosters lethargy, thereby reducing the urge to maintain personal hygiene, which is yet another opportunity for fungi to grow

  • Diminishing immune resistance of the body 

Diseases like leukemia, brain cancer, diabetes, and Down’s syndrome can impair the immune system, exposing the body to fungal and yeast infections regularly. When the immune system is weakened, spores of candida and fungi probe the cutaneous layer and infect deeper tissues through open sores.

Visual Features of Fungal/Yeast Infections

  • Inflammatory redness and infection of the groin and areas adjoining the genital organs.
  • Raised, concentric rashes that are reddish in color, with clear patches at their center. Gives the appearance and color of a red worm. Hence, the word "Ringworm."
  • Borders that are clear and rough, with a scaly appearance.
  • Wavy rashes, spreading outward but staying in clusters.
  • Oozing sores filled with pus.
  • Pigmented skin which may be a shade darker than normal skin.