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What is jock itch (tinea cruris)?
Jock itch, also termed tinea cruris, tinea (the fungal name is often used as the disease name), or ringworm, is a term that describes superficial fungal infection of the skin located in the groin area (genitals, inner thighs, and buttock area). It is a common skin infection that occurs in warm, moist areas of the body. The major cause of jock itch is the fungus termed tinea; the term jock itch came from the itchy superficial fungal infections that frequently occur in males who wear protective gear like cups to protect the genitals during sports activities (football, baseball, and other sports). However, any tight clothing (swimming suits, tight-fitting shorts, and tight-fitting underwear) may increase the chance of acquiring jock itch.
Is jock itch contagious?
Jock itch is considered to be mildly contagious. Usually, it requires direct person-to-person contact or wearing the clothing of someone who has the skin disease. It is mildly contagious because if the individual who becomes associated with a person with jock itch does not provide a similar warm, moist environment that supports the growth of fungi, the uninfected individual may not get the disease.
How will I know if I have jock itch?
Symptoms of jock itch include the following:
- An itchy red rash that is slightly raised and flaking
- Crack formations in the skin
- Often, the skin rash will have a sharp line that defines the extent of the ongoing infection.
- Some individuals may have a burning pain in the rash area.
- When clothing rubs against the skin, additional discomfort and/or pain can occur.
If you are not sure you have jock itch, a physician can, after physical exam and patient history, either examine the flaking skin scales or send them off to be examined. Microscopic detection of the fungi can confirm a diagnosis of jock itch.
How does jock itch spread?
In general, jock itch is spread usually in areas where there are individuals dressing and undressing in athletic facilities like locker rooms. These areas frequently have a hot, moist environment that is ideal for fungal growth and also ideal for cross-contamination of clothing that is tight-fitting (jock straps, swimming suits, underwear, for example) so that fungi are more easily spread to other people.
How do I know when I am cured of jock itch?
When the skin returns to normal (redness, itching, burning and flaking cease), a person is cured of jock itch. However, no matter if the person spontaneously clears the infection or if the individual requires an antifungal medication to clear the symptoms, it is still possible to become reinfected. In fact, it is not unusual for individuals to have recurrent infections especially if they fail to keep the groin area free of tight-fitting clothes and moisture.
When should I contact a medical caregiver about jock itch?
The majority of patients who develop jock itch do not need to contact a medical caregiver. Jock itch can spontaneously be cured in some individuals simply by making sure that tight-fitting clothing and moisture from sweating or other sources is not allowed to remain in contact with the skin for any extended time (minutes to hours). For others, simple over-the-counter topical antifungal creams such as clotrimazole or terbinafine will be effective.
However, if over-the-counter antifungals are not effective, if the skin area develops a secondary (usually bacterial) infection, if the area becomes tender and/or swollen, lymph node swelling and tenderness develop, or if red streaks develop, a medical caregiver should be contacted. Individuals who are obese with skin folds (overlapping skin) and those with suppressed immune function are likely to require more intensive treatment; such treatments are usually prescribed by the patient's physician.
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