Jock itch: What are the causes and symptoms?

Jock itch or tinea cruris is a fungal infection affecting the skin in the groin area. The moist, warm environment is the ideal place for the fungus to thrive. Any factor that enhances the environment puts the individual at risk for developing jock itch. Damp or sweaty clothing during the summer or using several layers of clothing in the winter has increased the number of cases of this fungal infection. In most cases, men are typically affected more than women.

The fungus responsible for jock itch is Trichophyton rubrum. It is also capable of triggering fungal infections in the body as well as the toes.

Characteristics of jock itch

The rash of jock itch usually starts in the groin fold usually on both sides. In case the rash progresses, it advances down the interior thigh. The advancing perimeters is evidently redder and elevated than the areas that have been infected longer. The progressing borders are scaly and readily distinguishable or properly defined.

The skin inside the perimeter turns reddish-brown in color and loses most of the scales. Take note that jock itch triggered by T. rubrum does not affect the scrotum or penis. If these are involved as well, the causative agent is Candida albicans which is the same type of yeast that is responsible for vaginal yeast infections.

Jock itch

The rash of jock itch usually starts in the groin fold usually on both sides.

How is it diagnosed?

The ideal way to diagnose jock itch involves analysis for the presence of hyphae under a microscope which is the KOH test. The skin is scraped using a glass slide or scalpel which causes the dead skin cells to fall onto the slide. A few drops of potassium hydroxide (KOH) is added to the slide and then heated for a short period of time.

The KOH dissolves the material that binds the skin cells together which releases the hyphae but will not distort the cell or the hyphae. Special stains can be utilized to provide a better visualization of the hyphae.


Jock itch is ideally treated with the application of topical creams or ointments since the fungus only affects the exterior skin layer. Most of the antifungal medications requires a prescription, but some are available over-the-counter such as clotrimazole, tolnaflate and miconazole.

The creams that are used must be applied 2 times a day for at least 2 weeks. The application is stopped after the rash has vanished for a week. The cream must be applied on the rash and at least 2 finger widths outside the rash. Many individuals with jock itch also suffer from athlete’s foot and these creams can also be used. When it comes to steroids, they should not be used in the groin area alone without consulting a doctor first since they can make the rash of jock itch worse if used alone.


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