Tinea Cruris or ringworm of the groin is a fungal infection that generally affects the genital region in males. It is characterized by a red, itchy rash which is also known as Jock Itch, Crotch itch, Tinea Inguen (Inguen being the Greek word for groin) or Scrot rot. It is a contagious infection and direct person to person transmission, though usually quite rare, is the most common reason for its occurrence and spread. In most cases, the infection is seen in persons already suffering from fungal infections on other body parts, including Athlete’s Foot or Tinea Corporis (ringworm of the body).
Signs and Symptoms of Ringworm of the Groin
Many other skin conditions produce similar signs and symptoms as those of ringworm of the groin. These include Candida Intertrigo, pubic lice, eczema, chemical irritation and Lichen Simplex Chronicus.
The main symptoms of Tinea Cruris are:
- Tinea Cruris starts with a red patch having lesions which start to grow in numbers.
- The center of the rash is generally clear whereas its border is raised, red and scaly. There may or may not be blisters surrounding the rash and the symptoms are generally seen in the folds of skin between the scrotum and the penis.
- The rash might start to spread to the thighs and buttocks.
- There is great deal of itchiness in and around the genitals and the anus.
- There may be a burning sensation in the affected region.
- The skin appears to be flaking peeling or cracking.
Patients suffering from ringworm of the groin find it uncomfortable to wear underwear. Walking and exercising also aggravates the rash.
Tinea Cruris: Who is at risk?
Like all other Tinea infections, Jock Itch is also more common in warm and humid areas and more so in the summer months. People, typically males, are more prone to ringworm of the groin. Additionally, it is more likely to affect the following:
- Those who are obese or overweight
- People who tend to wear tight pants (stretch pants, Spandex, tights) or tight and uncomfortable underwear.
- Athletes or swimmers who need to wear sweaty or wet clothes for longer periods of sporting activities.
- Adult men or adolescent boys who are already suffering from ringworm infections on other body parts.
- Immuno-suppressed patients or elderly populations or those taking corticosteroids for long periods of time are at a greater risk of developing ringworm of the groin.
Treating and Preventing Jock Itch
Treating Jock Itch requires the use of anti fungal medication, usually creams or soaps. These must be applied twice daily to the groin area. Many creams are available over the counter, but in some cases, prescription based products such as Tolnafate/Tinactin, Clotrimazole (Lotrimin) or Miconazole (Micatin) may be more effective. These must be applied all over the rash as well as at least 2 finger widths beyond the rash.
Sometimes, the Tinea Cruris infection might not respond only to topical medications. Therefore, doctors also prescribe oral anti fungal medications. These should be taken for a period of three to four weeks or as suggested. Contact your doctor if you do not notice any improvement or if the rash is accompanied by blistering, pain, fever etc. It is also important to follow some of the best practices that can help prevent ringworm of the groin infection and stop its spread. These include:
- Keeping the genital area clean and dry.
- Applying antifungal powders, talcum powders or sprays after bathing.
- Avoiding sharing of towels, clothes etc with family members.
- Applying cool running water on the itchy rash instead of scratching it. Scratching the rash can lead to secondary skin infections or even accidentally spread it to healthy parts.
- Wearing loose cotton clothing to help absorb excess sweat.
- Changing underwear regularly and washing all clothing in extremely hot water.
- Changing into dry clothes immediately after swimming or sporting activities.
Fungal infections grow and spread slowly so it is important to use the anti-fungal product only as prescribed. Applying or using more than specified might simply defeat the purpose. That being said; it is also important to use the product for a period of two weeks at least. Even if the visible symptoms appear to resolve, the fungus might still be present. If the ringworm of the groin reappears, or your symptoms worsen, do not hesitate to contact your health care provider.