What is Jock Itch?
Jock itch is an extremely common fungal infection associated primarily with locker rooms, shared spaces and the nether regions of the human body, especially in men. Jock itch can in fact afflict those that have never ventured into a locker room, as well as women, but the stereotypes hold water for a reason. Jock itch is very itchy, very uncomfortable, and can be unsightly when let to grow out of control.
Jock itch is, in actuality, the same fungus as in athlete’s foot, which is perhaps somewhat better known. The difference is that athlete’s foot is associated solely with shoes and boots that fail to breathe well. Jock itch is a fungal infection of any other area of the body, most commonly the crotch and underarms.
As a fungal infection, jock itch can be very resilient and last for a very long time. A tough case of jock itch may persist in excess of eight weeks before it can be completely eliminated, even with treatment. Fungal infections are characteristically quite hardy and difficult to purge, which makes it fortunate that they can generally be avoided through proper hygiene alone.
Who gets Jock Itch?
Jock itch can afflict quite literally anyone. As a fungal infection there is no genetic component. Fungi do not discriminate based on sex or ethnicity, and no heritage can lead to any sort of immunity. There are no real individual factors that can make jock itch a more likely disease. That said, there are certain groups that are much more likely to get jock itch just by way of their general circumstances.
The first and foremost individuals at risk to contract jock itch are nearly always individuals that share space with others as a point of their profession or hobby. Athletes and enlisted men and women are generally at the greatest risk, as they most frequently share damp spaces where the fungus involved in jock itch is likely to flourish and spread. Jock itch tends above all else to gravitate towards dark, warm and wet areas. Just as athlete’s foot flourishes in the poor ventilation of a damp boot, jock itch is most likely to afflict individuals who are prone to sweating as a result of their work and also have to share space.
Jock itch is thought to afflict men more than women as a point of stereotype, following the idea that men generally have worse hygiene and etcetera, but this is merely a stereotype. What men do have a tendency toward, however, is more profuse sweating, which can play a very real role in the spread of jock itch.
What causes Jock Itch?
Jock itch is caused by a particular fungus that spreads from innocuous contact. There is nothing to the cause of jock itch but the spread of the fungus across the skin, which comes from initial exposure. The rest of it is simply a matter of exacerbating circumstance.
Circumstances that can contribute to the likelihood of jock itch are multifaceted, which can make it difficult to avoid and even more difficult to cure. Avoiding circumstances that increase the likelihood of jock itch is frequently an effective way to avoid the infection altogether.
First and foremost, jock itch likes wet areas. Damp skin is where jock itch thrives. Areas most vulnerable to jock itch include the underarms, crotch and behind the knees, simply because these areas are most consistently damp after one has been working out or otherwise engaged in physical activity.
Warmth is another factor. This is in part because it keeps the skin damp by promoting perspiration and in part because it helps accelerate the growth of the fungi that cause jock itch. The same areas previously mentioned as damp also have a tendency to be quite a bit warmer than usual, allowing jock itch to thrive in these locations to the exclusion of other areas.
What does Jock Itch cause?
Jock itch causes itching. This is the primary symptom and what jock itch is generally thought of for above all else, and the ability of jock itch to disrupt a sports match or work has caused more than a few lost points and lost manhours in its modern tenure. This itching is the result of the fungal infection that causes jock itch. As the fungus spreads, it invades the skin itself, agitating and irritating it and tripping the nerves, causing moderate to severe pruritis (itching) across all infected skin.
Jock itch will spread if not cut off from its supply of warm and wet, infecting skin at a variable speed and spreading from the insides of joints down limbs and into the torso. Contact is all that is required for the infection to spread, making it reasonably contagious; jock itch has a tendency to spread in outbreaks through shared spaces, especially locker rooms.
It is possible for jock itch to desiccate the skin by preventing it from holding moisture properly, a rather ironic symptom given its preference for damp spaces. This is rarely more than a minor symptom, but it can still be problematic and a nuisance if left untreated, leading many to use moisturizing lotion. It is important to note that unscented lotions are the best option here, as many scented lotions do not hydrate the skin to any degree.
One possible symptom of jock itch (and fungal infections in general) is actually catalyzed by the introduction of an antifungal treatment. An ‘id reaction’ is a secondary rash generally gravitating towards the limbs and trunk, generally presenting as patches of red skin with significant itching. This is harmless, but may be a significant nuisance. Id reactions tend to clear up when the fungal infection that caused them do.
The nature of fungal infections and the itchiness accompanied with them can make the skin more vulnerable to blistering and cracking. This is related both to the damage the fungus itself causes as well as the scratching that many individuals are inclined to engage in in response to the intense itching. The primary issue underlying this is that it frequently results in secondary bacterial infections. This is doubly true if the origin of the jock itch is poor hygiene in shared spaces, as bacterial exposure is even more likely in these circumstances than fungal exposure. Secondary infections have the potential to be significantly more severe than jock itch, which is an excellent reason to avoid the greater damage that jock itch can inflict when it can be helped to any degree.
How serious is Jock Itch?
Jock itch is a resilient fungal infection that can cause very real, very material discomfort. That said, it is not an exceptionally serious condition. The primary factor at hand is always discomfort, and only rarely can it result in more severe damage. The greatest true risk at hand with jock itch is that any trauma or excoriation to the skin can leave it more susceptible to secondary infections by more vicious bacteria which can cause even more severe symptoms.
Jock itch’s contagious nature makes it significantly more of a threat, however. Jock itch has a tendency to spread to more than one person if not actively held off, which can put many individuals on the same team or in the same group out of commission with overwhelmingly uncomfortable symptoms. While its primary symptom is itching, jock itch is significantly worse than ‘just’ an itch, and definitely more serious than a simple nuisance. The ability to incapacitate plural individuals rather than just one is what makes jock itch the bane of so many locker rooms and gyms.
What does Jock Itch treatment look like?
Jock itch treatment revolves first and foremost around prevention. Preventing jock itch is not difficult. While jock itch itself is a resilient ailment and very contagious, it is not difficult to circumvent before it becomes a problem to begin with. Hygiene is the primary factor that can separate a clean individual from an infected one.
Proper drying and cleaning with clean towels after showers is an excellent way to avoid jock itch, but the emphasis here must be placed on clean, dry towels. Sharing towels is an easy way to spread jock itch and other skin diseases. Similarly, leaving towels damp is the easiest way to let the fungi involved with jock itch to spread directly to the towel, giving them an easy route to the skin—all in all a very bad idea, and something to avoid with great caution.
Disinfection of shared surfaces with alcohol is an excellent practice. This can destroy bacteria and fungi alike, and generally promotes a climate of hygiene that will prevent many difficulties in the long run, including but not limited to jock itch. Alcohol is the most common disinfectant for this purpose, but there are other options as well. Scrubbing is not necessary for this procedure.
Keeping skin dry is an excellent means by which to avoid jock itch, as well. Talcum powder can be scattered in many locations on the body where dampness is likely to settle. This will wick up the moisture trapped in the area and deny the fungus that causes jock itch the environment it needs to thrive. This method of prevention is generally employed for comfort, besides.
Antifungal agents are the most frequently prescribed products for jock itch. Many are available over-the-counter as well, and some are even sold at the gym itself. However, it is important to distinguish between the effects of different jock itch treatments. There are many treatments that are effective only for treating the symptoms of jock itch themselves, specifically the dryness and itching of the skin. This is well and good for a temporary solution and abatement to the suffering but it does nothing to attack the underlying problem of the fungus itself, and is thus not a true cure, merely a symptomatic treatment. Other forms of treatment for jock itch will actually attack and suppress the fungus; these are useful in the long term, but will do little in the short term to deal with the itching.
Teatree oil is known to help relieve moderate to severe itching, making it an excellent alternative to some harsher forms of anti-itch treatment. Additionally, most unscented lotions can fill the role of keeping the skin hydrated and supple in the midst of an infection, which does little to cure fungal infections but much to maintain the comfort of the individual suffering them. However, if using unscented lotion to ease the dryness of skin, it is very important that one does not bind over that lotioned skin in such a way as to trap moisture against it; this may exacerbate the problem at hand.
After using any topical treatment for jock itch, it is critically important that one wash their hands clean with soap and hot water. If this is not done, it is entirely possible that jock itch will simply be spread to another area of the body by the hands, which can be supremely unpleasant and start the process of curing it all over again, which is something most individuals would like to avoid.
The most severe cases of jock itch may be treated with general antifungals taken orally. These formulas will attack all of the fungus besetting the body equally. This can be useful for the sake of convenience when the infection is very widespread and treating each patch of affected skin individually is simply impractical.
Many forms of antifungal treatment involve some risk of what is known as an ‘id reaction’. This is a harmless, but frequently annoying rash that may break out in the affected areas and on the limbs and trunk in response to the introduction of antifungals into the system while the body is fighting off a fungal infection. Id reactions tend to clear up with the original fungal infection.
How do I know if I have Jock Itch?
Jock itch can be identified by what frequently looks like the thickening of skin in the affected areas, as well as intense itching as the condition should worsen and spread. Jock itch will spread if left untreated, which can be another sign: persistent itching that grows progressively worse and continues to spread. If one is also subscribed to a gym and uses the locker room, or is otherwise in shared and damp space with others on a frequent basis, jock itch becomes even more likely.
A positive diagnosis can be given by a doctor with a simple examination of the affected area, and such a diagnosis is a very good idea if the condition should persist, worsen and cause significant difficulty for the affected individual.