Jock Itch: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
by Matthew Dunn
Cutaneous mycoses, which are fungal infections, affect 20% to 25% of the population. These conditions of the skin and nails include tinea cruris, also known as jock itch.
Jock itch alone, which causes not only redness and itching but also a strong smell in the groin area, is also common. According to a review, about one in five people experience this at one point or another.
The good news is that tinea cruris (as well as the jock smell itch it causes) is often treatable. There are also several ways to minimize the odors associated with the condition.
To that end, we've come up with this guide on everything you need to know about this fungal infection. Read on to learn what causes it, how to tell that you have it, and your treatment options.
What Is Jock Itch Exactly?
Jock itch is an infection that falls under the group of tinea infections. Tinea, in turn, is a group of diseases that arise from fungi. Aside from jock itch, tinea can also take the form of an athlete's foot, which may lead to smelly feet.
Most tinea infections aren't severe health conditions, but they are contagious. Meaning, it can spread from one person to another. It's also possible to get infected by walking barefoot on damp surfaces, such as showers and gym floors.
What Are the Specific Causes of This Condition?
Dermatophytes are a group of fungi that's behind tinea cruris infections. These microorganisms, however, are natural "residents" of the skin. In many cases, they just sit there on the top surface of the skin without causing any issues.
The problem starts when these fungi get exposed to a lot of extra moisture, such as sweat. This, plus the warmth of the groin area, allows the microorganisms to proliferate. When this occurs, they reproduce quickly, which in turn, causes jock itch.
Do note that the fungi that cause jock itch may also cause armpit rash and, yes, smelly balls and underarms. These microorganisms may also affect the area below the breasts and the inner thighs. All skin folds can be impacted in the same way.
How Can You Tell If You Have Jock Itch?
Common jock itch symptoms include redness and itchiness of the affected area. In advanced cases, the condition causes a burning sensation, and the skin may even feel warm to the touch. The fungi can also make the skin flake, peel off, or crack and ooze fluid that can cause an odor.
Exercising or performing any sweat-inducing activity can also make the rash worse. The skin color may even change and appear like pink, red, or even brown spots or patches.
How Do You Tell That's It a "Jock Itch Smell"?
You can tell that it's a "jock itch smell" if the symptoms mentioned above come with a musty odor. It resembles the scent of yeast-or cheese. Something that you may have smelled if you've ever taken a whiff of stale bread. In some people, however, the smell may seem more like moldy mixed with a hint of acrid or sour odor.
Who Is at Most Risk of Getting This Infection?
The fungi that cause jock itch (and its distinctive smell) flourish in warm and moist areas. As such, individuals who have deep skin folds or those that exercise can be at a higher risk. That's also why many say that losing weight and stinky smells often go hand in hand.
After all, increased physical activity generates more sweat and heat. These two, in turn, are the things that allow most types of body odor-causing fungi to thrive.
There are several other risk factors, though, including the ones listed below.
Overweight and Obesity
Jock itch is also common in people who sweat a lot in relation to their weight. People who have obesity or a higher body mass index are at a greater risk of fungal infections. This may be due to their increased number of skin folds, which create the best environments for fungi.
Age, Gender, and Clothing Habits
Age and gender also play a role: teenagers and men have a higher likelihood of developing jock itch.
One possible reason that it's more common in male teens is because of sports. For example, the use of "jockstraps" among male athletes promote sweating and heat.
However, the use of super tight clothing and undergarments can also put women at risk. Such clothing may promote increased sweating and the itching associated with a smell "down there".
Individuals who have hyperhidrosis also have a heightened risk of developing jock itch. This is a condition characterized by excessive sweating. Hyperhidrosis is also quite common, affecting an estimated 7.8 million people in the US alone.
Candida albicans is the top cause of fungal infections in folks with diabetes. Like jock itch, these skin conditions can also lead to itchy rashes and redness. However, having diabetes also raises one's risk of developing tinea cruris.
How Can You Treat Jock Itch?
As common as jock itch is, it's often treatable at the comfort of your own home. According to health experts, over-the-counter antifungal products can control the fungal growths. Such treatments include topicals like cream, sprays, and powders.
Before applying an antifungal, be sure to clean the area with some soap and warm water. Thorough (but gentle) drying of the site is also crucial to help the skin absorb the product better.
As always, don't forget handwashing the right way, before and after using an antifungal. In doing so, you can prevent the spread of fungi to other parts of your body. Moreover, this practice can help keep pathogens from spreading to other people.
Preventing Itchiness and Smells Down There
Keeping the affected areas clean and dry is key to controlling jock itch symptoms. Hygienic habits also help prevent the infection from worsening and spreading. By reducing the numbers of the "dermatophytes" in your groin area, you can also keep the bad smells at bay.
With that said, here are some of the best ways to prevent jock itch and the foul smells it can bring.
Use a Gentle Soap
At this point, you may be wondering if you should switch to the so-called antibacterial soap. Well, you don't have to, since there's no adequate proof that they are better than gentle soaps. Plus, antibacterial soaps may do more harm than good, as they may come with harsh ingredients.
With that said, it's best that you go with soaps that use gentle ingredients. Less is more when it comes to soaps, so you want to use one that doesn't have parabens or phthalates. You also don't want artificial dyes or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in it.
Don't "Sit" in Sweat-Soaked Undergarments
As mentioned above, a lot of people do perspire more than the average person. In this case, the groin and even the buttocks area can sweat profusely and soak your underwear.
Either way, if your activities for the day will make you sweat more, be sure to bring extra undergarments. If you can, pack an entire set of spare clothes. This way, you have less to worry about if your sweat soaks everything you're wearing.
Speaking of clothes, it's best to wear loose clothing to avoid causing skin friction. Tight clothes can irritate the jock itch-affected skin further, and may even injure it. Open wounds on the skin, in turn, can set you up for even more infections.
Wipe It Down
It can also help if you use deodorant wipes after every time you pee or use the toilet. It's also a smart move to use these products before changing into a fresh pair of underwear. They help gently cleanse the affected area, while also helping reduce the foul smells of jock itch.
One thing to note, though: not all wipes are flushable, so be sure that you choose only compostable ones! This way, you can prevent plumbing and sewer clogs. Compostable wipes are also better for the environment, as they aren't toxic to the soil.
Use Whole-Body Deodorant
If you have jock itch, you can apply aluminum-free deodorant to help control the smell. Lume is the only deodorant that is safe to use on your pits, feet, and privates. Lume comes in unscented form, but also in various nice-smelling scents.
Keep Exercising (But Keep Things Hygienic)
Everyone is at risk of a fungal infection, as there are at least 300 types of fungi harmful to humans. However, those who have poor immune systems are at an even greater risk. As such, a healthy immune system is crucial to preventing and fighting off infections.
Exercising remains one of the most effective ways to promote a healthy immune system. However, if you have jock itch, you also need to up your hygienic ante. This includes cleaning exercise equipment before and after you use them.
Also, keep in mind that the fungi that cause athlete's foot are also the culprits behind jock itch. So, whenever you hit the gym, make sure you never walk barefoot, especially not in the shower room. This way, you can avoid contracting athlete's foot, which can also cause an infection in the groin area.
Use Fresh Towels
As you recover from tinea cruris, it might help to use fresh towels to dry yourself off after every shower. Remember, the fungi that cause this skin condition can move from one surface to another. So, they might stay on that used towel and transfer back to your body if you use the same thing again.
Speaking of towels, if you have athlete's foot, use a separate towel for your feet. Again, this is to prevent the harmful microorganisms from spreading throughout your body.
Also, if you're at the gym or any public shower (or pool), do your best to refrain from setting your towel over any surface. This can help reduce your odds of experiencing recurring infections.
Keep Your Meals Packed With Nutrients
Did you know that some food and beverages can cause body odor? If garlic was the first thing you thought of, well, it can cause bad breath, but it may help when it comes to body smells.
There's more to food than just causing body odors, though. A lack of the right nutrients, such as magnesium, can make you more prone to fungal infections. A study, for instance, found that nutritional deficiencies often occur alongside candidiasis.
Candidiasis is different from jock itch; nevertheless, it pays to eat healthily. For starters, a healthy diet can help prevent the weakening of your immune system. A healthy immune system, by contrast, is better in fighting off infections.
Aside from magnesium, it's best to raise your zinc intake too. You can find these in lean meats and also in vegan options like tofu.
Don't forget vitamins C and E, which are also potent antioxidants. The B vitamins, according to scientists, may also help keep harmful fungi at bay.
When Do You Need To See A Doctor for Tinea Cruris?
If you follow the steps we've outlined, you'll likely see an improvement in your jock itch within a week or two. However, if the rash, itchiness, or redness worsens, it's a good idea to pay your doctor a visit. This way, your physician can run tests to ensure that it's not a more serious condition.
Do note that some strains of fungi can be resistant to pharmaceutical treatments. As such, it's also best to see a doctor in case you've tried antifungal topicals, and they didn't help at all. Your physician may need to run some more tests to identify and rule out potential causes.
Say Goodbye to That Foul Jock Itch Smell
As you can see, jock itch (and the odor that goes along with it) is treatable with the right hygiene habits. You don't have to live with the foul smell either, as you can reduce it with deodorant wipes. The most important thing is to keep those areas clean and dry as much as you can to keep infections from recurring.
Are you ready to kill those bad smells while keeping things down there clean and hygienic? Be sure to check out the Lume product collection of soaps, wipes, and deodorants!
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