Is jock itch contagious?

8 reasons your groin itches and how to get relief

If genital itch has you devising ways to discreetly scratch, talk with your doctor about best way to get relief.

An itch in your groin area can be difficult to discuss with anyone, including your doctor. But it’s nothing to feel ashamed of. The problem is common, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Here are 8 reasons, aside from an STI, for itchy private parts along with tips for getting relief.

  1. Jock itch. This is a common and treatable skin condition that’s caused by a fungus. It’s especially common in athletes because the fungus thrives on warm, moist skin that’s covered with tightly fitting clothing.
    A common sign of jock itch is a red, scaly, and incredibly itchy rash, which can develop on the:

      Genitals
  2. Inner thighs
  3. Buttocks
  4. Crease of the buttocks What can relieve the itch: Keeping the area dry and applying a non-prescription treatment for jock itch can often cure this skin condition. If it doesn’t, you should see your board-certified dermatologist or primary care doctor.
  5. Yeast infection. This is a common cause of:

      Vaginal itch
  6. It’s estimated that 75% of all women will develop a yeast infection during their lifetime. Wearing tight-fitting synthetic clothing is a common cause, but there are many others as well.

    Signs of a yeast infection, also known as candidiasis (can-duh-die-ah-sis) include thick vaginal discharge, burning, and itching.
    What can relieve the itch: Start by seeing your gynecologist to make sure that you have a yeast infection. If you have a yeast infection, your gynecologist can recommend treatment that’s right for you. Many effective treatments exist.

  7. Allergic reaction or irritation. This is a common and treatable cause of genital itch that develops in women, men, and children. Women seem especially prone because products, such as vaginal douches, feminine hygiene sprays, and scented panty liners can cause a reaction. Many other products, including perfumed soaps, wet wipes, and underwear can cause a reaction in anyone.
    What can relieve the itch: To get relief, you need to avoid what’s causing the reaction. Once you can avoid it, the itch will gradually go away.
    If you cannot figure out what’s causing the itch, see a gynecologist, allergist, or dermatologist for help.

  8. Psoriasis. If you have psoriasis, it’s important to know that psoriasis can develop in the genital area, appearing on the:

      Penis
  9. Scrotum
  10. Vulva
  11. Anus
  12. Creases of the buttocks
  13. Upper thighs
  14. Most people who develop psoriasis on their genitals have psoriasis elsewhere. It’s important to know that when it develops on the genitals, psoriasis can look different. It may have less scale. The area tends to feel sore and itchy. Sometimes, the itch is intense.
    What can relieve the itch: Treatment for genital psoriasis can relieve the itch. Because the genital area is sensitive, treatment for the genitals often differs from the psoriasis treatment that you apply to other parts of your body.
    To find out how dermatologists treat genital psoriasis, go to: How can I treat genital psoriasis?

  15. Lichen planus. This common condition can cause a rash of small, itchy bumps on the skin. When it develops in the genital area, it often causes red, raw patches that can burn and itch. In the genital area, lichen planus can develop on the:

      Vagina
  16. Vulva
  17. Penis
  18. Anus
  19. What can relieve the itch: Treatment can relieve the itch and other symptoms as well as prevent the disease from worsening. For an accurate diagnosis and treatment, see a gynecologist or board-certified dermatologist.

  20. Lichen sclerosus. This condition can cause white, thickened patches that develop on the:

      Female genitals
  21. Anus
  22. Penis
  23. The patches may feel sore and itchy.
    LS is more common when estrogen levels are low, so it usually develops in girls before they start menstruating and in postmenopausal women. It can also develop in young boys and men.
    What can relieve the itch: The first step is to get an accurate diagnosis, so you want to see a gynecologist or board-certified dermatologist. Lichen sclerosus cannot be cured, but treatment can ease your discomfort and may prevent the disease from worsening.

  24. Pinworms. A pinworm infection tends to cause:

      An intensely itchy anus, especially at night
  25. The pinworm is a parasite. To survive, it must live inside a human’s intestines.
    When female pinworms get ready to lay their eggs, they travel to the person’s rectum. Females tend to lay their eggs inside the rectum while the person sleeps.
    While a pinworm is inside the rectum, the anus can itch intensely. The itch can be so severe that it wakes someone from a sound sleep.
    When people scratch their itchy anus, pinworms and eggs can get on their hands and under their nails. If they touch something, such as bedding or a doorknob, before washing their hands, the pinworms and eggs can land on these surfaces.
    You can get pinworms when you touch a surface infected with pinworms, their eggs, or both, and then touch your mouth. From your mouth, the pinworms will travel to your intestines. Because pinworms often spread this way, they are most common in children.
    What can relieve the itch: You need to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. If you have pinworms, usually everyone in your household will need treatment. This helps to prevent the parasite from passing from one person to another.

  26. Skin cancer. It’s possible to get skin cancer in the genital area. Skin cancer can develop on the:

      Vulva
  27. Penis
  28. Scrotum
  29. The area between the scrotum (or vagina) and the anus
  30. Anus
  31. One symptom of skin cancer is an itch that does not go away. Other symptoms include pain, a lump, bleeding, or discharge.
    What can relieve the itch: If you suspect you have skin cancer in your genital area, see a board-certified dermatologist. Treatment can be life-saving. It can also relieve the itch.

An accurate diagnosis is the key to getting real relief

While you’ve just seen eight very different reasons for itchy private parts, there are many more, including hemorrhoids, menopause, and eczema. Several STIs can also cause your genitals to itch.

Seeing a board-certified dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment can protect your health and bring much welcomed relief.

Image
Getty Images

Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:

  • Bunker, CB. “Diseases of the male genitalia”:654-75.

  • Janik MP and Heffernan MP. “Yeast infections: Candidiasis and tinea (pityriasis) versicolor”:1824.

  • Torgerson RK, Edwards L. “Diseases and disorders of the female genitalia”:675-83.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Parasites – Enterobiasis.” Page last updated January 13, 2013. Last accessed September 25, 2018.

Chi CC, Kirtschig G, et al. “Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on topical interventions for genital lichen sclerosus.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012;67:305-12.

Paek SC, Merritt DF, et al. “Pruritus vulvae in prepubertal children.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2001;44: 795-802.

Tinea cruris

What is tinea cruris?

Tinea cruris is the name used for infection of the groin with a dermatophyte fungus. It is most often seen in adult men. Tinea cruris is commonly known as jock itch.

In different parts of the world, different species cause tinea cruris. In New Zealand, Trichophyton rubrum and Epidermophyton floccosum are the most common causes. Infection often comes from the feet (tinea pedis) or nails (tinea unguium) originally, spread by scratching or the use of an infected towel.

The appearance is similar to ringworm (tinea corporis). The rash has a scaly raised red border that spreads down the inner thighs from the groin or scrotum. Tinea cruris may form ring-like patterns on the buttocks. It is not often seen on the penis or vulva or around the anus. Tinea cruris can be very itchy.

Tinea cruris can be confused with other forms of intertrigo such as:

  • Candida
  • Erythrasma
  • Psoriasis
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis

Tinea cruris quite often recurs after apparently successful treatment. To reduce the chance of reinfection:

  • Treat the feet if tinea pedis is present.
  • Dry the groin carefully after bathing using a separate towel.
  • Do not share towels, sheets or personal clothing.
  • Avoid wearing occlusive or synthetic clothing.
  • If you are overweight, try to lose weight to reduce chafing and sweating.

Diagnosis of tinea cruris

The diagnosis of tinea cruris is confirmed by microscopy and culture of skin scrapings.

Treatment of tinea cruris

Tinea cruris is usually treated with topical antifungal agents. Sometimes hydrocortisone is added, for faster relief of itch. Topical steroids should not be used on their own. If the treatment is unsuccessful, oral antifungal medicines may be considered, including terbinafine and itraconazole.

What Is Jock Itch?

Jock itch is highly treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

Jock itch is a type of fungal infection that affects the groin area, inner thighs, and buttocks.

It’s also known as tinea cruris or ringworm of the groin (tinea is the medical term for ringworm).

The infection causes scaly, itchy, red or pink spots in the groin area, typically around the creases of the upper thigh.

It may spread to the anus and cause itching and discomfort in that area, but it typically doesn’t affect the scrotum or penis.

The rash is often ring-shaped — redder on the outside with normal, clear skin in the center — and may blister and ooze.

It can sometimes cause abnormally dark or light skin, which may remain after the infection clears up.

What Causes Jock Itch?

Like other forms of ringworm, jock itch is caused by fungi known as dermatophytes.

There are more than 40 species of fungi that can cause ringworm, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most cases of jock itch are caused by the dermatophytes Epidermophyton floccosum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, and T. rubrum, according to a 2008 article in the journal Mycoses.

The fungi thrive in moist, warm areas. Although jock itch can affect both men and women, it’s more common in adult men and teenage boys because of the moisture that develops between the scrotum and inner thigh.

People who are obese are also at an increased risk for jock itch because of their moisture-trapping skinfolds.

Additionally, wearing wet or tight clothing for a long time can allow fungi to spread and cause jock itch.

Is Jock Itch Contagious?

Jock itch is contagious, or easily spread.

You can get jock itch through direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the infection. You can also get it by wearing the unwashed clothes, or using the unwashed towel, of someone who has jock itch.

It’s possible to spread a different ringworm infection — particularly tinea unguium (ringworm of the fingernails or toenails) or tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) — to your groin.

For instance, you can get jock itch if you have athlete’s foot and your feet touch the crotch area or waistband of your underwear while you’re getting dressed.

Jock Itch Treatment

Jock itch and other forms of ringworm are highly treatable using over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, lotions, or powders applied to the skin for 2 to 4 weeks.

These treatments include:

If your infection is widespread or difficult-to-treat — or if it causes inflammation — prescription-strength antifungal tablets are also available.

These prescription-strength treatments include Sporanox or Onmel (itraconazole) and Lamisil or Terbinex (terbinafine).

Jock itch is often less severe than athlete’s foot and other ringworm infections, but it may last for a long time, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Jock Itch Prevention

The following precautions can help reduce your risk of getting jock itch:

  • Keep your groin, buttocks, and inner thighs dry and clean — such as by using powder when it’s warm out, and drying thoroughly with a clean towel after showering or getting wet
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing, especially underwear and athletic supporters (jock straps)
  • Don’t reuse athletic clothing — particularly athletic supporters — without washing it first
  • Don’t share towels, clothing, or other personal items with other people without washing them first
  • Treat other ringworm infections promptly

Can You Have Sex If Your Partner Has Jock Itch? Here’s What You Should Know About The Fungal Infection

Emma McGowan, certified sex educator and writer, reveals what happens if you have sex with a partner who has jock itch in this week’s Sex IDK column.

Q: My boyfriend sometimes gets jock itch — is it OK to have sex while he has that? Is there any worry on that transferring to me?

What a fascinating question! Because jock itch lives on the genitals, it totally makes sense to wonder whether or not it’s transferable between people. Let’s take a look first at what jock itch is and then we’ll address the underlying question: Is it kind of an STI?

Jock itch is a fungal infection that lives in warm, moist areas — like the groin or between folds of fat on some people’s bodies. Jock itch can be spread to other parts of the body, where it’s called “ringworm.” (But don’t be fooled by the name — it’s a fungal infection, not a worm.) It’s actually the same fungus that’s called “athlete’s foot” when it shows up on the feet! So if someone has athlete’s foot, they should make sure not to use the same towel that they use to dry their feet on their groin, or the infection may spread.

Jock itch can also occur when the right environment — read: warm, dark, sweaty, and with lots of friction — makes it so that a small amount of the fungus on the skin is able to take over beneficial bacteria and multiply. It looks like red skin that starts at the crease of the groin and can spread to the thighs, abdomen, and other parts of the groin. There can also be small blisters, which might itch or flake or burn.

Andrew Zaeh/Bustle

It sounds gross — and it’s certainly unpleasant — but it’s totally treatable with anti-fungal cream, although persistent cases may need a prescription cream. But other than not feeling great and looking kind of icky, there are no serious health repercussions for jock itch.

Is Jock Itch An STI?

Jock itch isn’t classified as an STI — but it can be transmitted sexually. Think about it: This is a fungal infection that likes to live in warm, dark, moist places. When you’re having sex, there’s usually contact between your warm, dark, moist places and your partner’s warm, dark, moist places. It also likes friction and, yeah, sex often involves friction. So if there’s jock itch hanging out on your partner, it’s possible it could be passed on to you.

But body parts do matter here. Jock itch is most common on people with penises — mainly because external genitalia that hangs down (penis and scrotum) is more likely to cause friction than external genitalia that’s close to the torso (vulva) — but it can live on the groins of people with vulvas, too. It’s not as likely, but it can happen. (Fun fact: The same fungus can also show up under your boobs if you’re really sweaty!)

So Can I Have Sex With My Partner If They Have Jock Itch?

The short answer is: “Probably not a great idea.” The longer answer is: “No, but…”

Here’s what I mean by that: Sex is a calculated risk. Whether it’s a risk of getting pregnant when you don’t want to or getting an STI or getting your heart broken, there are always risks that come along with sex. So considering the fact that treatment for jock itch can take a couple of weeks, you might not want to wait that long without having sex. And if you have a vulva, the risks of contracting it are pretty low, anyway, although I would be concerned about re-infecting your partner. If you have a penis, however, and are having sex with another person with a penis, you can definitely easily pass it back and forth between you.

Andrew Zaeh/Bustle

So really, it’s up to you. Do you want to risk it? Is it worth it to you? I mean, I sometimes kiss my boyfriend when he has a cold, even though I know it might make me sick. Is that the best choice? Probably not. But it’s worth it to me when I do it. And, like I said, if you do get it, jock itch is totally treatable and doesn’t have long-term health consequences, although it doesn’t feel or look great.

How Can I Prevent Jock Itch?

One thing your boyfriend can do, however, is be diligent about not getting jock itch in the first place. Good hygiene practices are key here — although some people seem to be cursed to get it no matter how clean they are. The goal is to make sure there isn’t a hospitable environment for the fungus to grow in the first place.

Mayo Clinic recommends changing underwear at least once a day; washing workout gear after use; avoiding tight fitting clothes; using powder on the groin after showering; not sharing personal items; and treating athlete’s foot so it doesn’t spread.

But if your boyfriend has jock itch and you’re willing to take the risk? I say why not! It’s not going to kill you, make you infertile, or make you lost your mind. But it just might make your crotch burn for a while…

Read more from Bustle’s ‘Sex IDK’ column:

  • Are Vaginal Orgasms Real?
  • How Much Pain During Sex Is Normal? 4 Reasons Intercourse May Be Hurting
  • Is My Vaginal Discharge Normal?

Summit Medical Group Web Site

What is jock itch?

Jock itch is a fungus that causes the pink, scaly, extremely itchy rash on the inner thighs, groin, and scrotum. (Note: The rash is not on the penis.) Jock itch is much more common in boys than girls. Jock itch is also called ringworm of the crotch or tinea cruris.

What is the cause?

Jock itch is caused by a fungus, often the same one that causes athlete’s foot. Sometimes it is transferred by a towel used to dry the feet and then used to dry the groin area.

How long does it last?

With treatment, the symptoms are better in 2 or 3 days and the rash is cured in 3 to 4 weeks.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Antifungal medicine

    Buy Tinactin, Micatin, Lamisil AT, or Lotrimin cream (nonprescription) at your drugstore. Twice a day put the cream on the rash and at least 1 inch beyond the borders of the rash. Make sure you get the antifungal medicine in all the creases.

    Continue using the medicine for several weeks, or for at least 7 days after the rash seems to have gone away.

  • Dryness

    Jock itch will heal much more quickly if the groin area is kept dry. Your child should wear loosely fitting cotton shorts. Wash shorts and athletic supporters after each use. Wash the rash area once a day with plain water and dry it carefully. Do not use soap on the rash.

  • Scratching

    Scratching can spread the rash or even start a bacterial infection (impetigo), so encourage your child not to scratch the area.

  • Contagiousness

    Jock itch is not very contagious. The fungus won’t grow on dry, normal skin. Your child may continue to take gym and play sports. Wash clothes after each use. Storing clothes in a locker or gym bag lets the fungus grow on the clothes.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call during office hours if:

  • There is no improvement in 1 week.
  • The rash is not completely cured in 1 month.
  • You have other questions or concerns.

On this page

What is tinea?

Tinea is a common and contagious fungal skin infection. The tinea fungus thrives in warm, moist environments, so areas like the feet, the groin, the scalp, under the breasts and sometimes the toe and fingernails are ideal places for the fungus to grow.

What are the types of tinea?

Tinea can affect many areas of the skin and the infection will have a different name depending on the location and fungal type. These different types include:

  • athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) — a fungal infection of the skin on the feet
  • ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis) — a fungal infection that develops on the head
  • ringworm of the body (tinea corporis) — a fungal infection of the body that develops on the top layer of the skin
  • jock itch (tinea cruris) — a rash in the moist, warm areas of the groin
  • nail infection (onychomycosis) — a fungal infection of the toe or finger nails

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Who is at risk of tinea?

Tinea can affect anyone, although most tinea infections are mild. Young people and men — as well as anyone who plays a lot of sport, spends time in communal changing rooms and showers, or who wears runners — are most likely to be affected by athlete’s foot.

What are the symptoms of tinea?

Symptoms of tinea include a red flaky rash that can crack split and peel, blistering and itching.

Sometimes the rash appears in a circular ring pattern, which is called ‘ringworm’ but this can be a little misleading because there is no worm involved.

If tinea forms in the nails they may develop a yellow or white discolouration. If it forms on the scalp, bald spots may occur.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use our rashes and skin problems Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

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How is tinea treated?

The infected area should be kept clean and dry because the fungus prefers to grow in moist, warm conditions.

Tinea is treated with antifungal medicines, which usually come in the form of a cream. You can purchase these creams from any pharmacy and from some supermarkets. Follow the application instructions on the package carefully and speak to your pharmacist if you have questions.

If the infection won’t go away, your doctor may prescribe anti-fungal tablets that you swallow.

It can take weeks or even months for tinea to clear up, depending on what type of fungus it is. Tinea of the nails (onychomycosis) is much more difficult to treat and may require medication taken by mouth before it can be treated successfully.

Learn more about tinea medication here.

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Can tinea be prevented?

Good personal hygiene can help prevent you from getting a tinea infection. Keeping the body clean will also stop the infection from spreading to other areas.

There are several things you can do to help manage or avoid the condition:

  • Tinea is contagious so it’s important not to share towels, flannels, bathmats, treatment creams or shoes. Wear thongs when showering in a communal shower.
  • After washing, dry the skin thoroughly, especially between the toes, in the groin and under the breasts.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after cleaning the infected area to make sure you don’t spread your infection to other parts of your body or onto other people.
  • Use antiperspirants to help control excessive sweating.
  • Try not to scratch your rash as you may spread the infection to other parts of your body.
  • Try to expose the skin to as much fresh air as possible.

In addition to good hygiene, your choice of clothing and footwear can also make a difference:

  • Make sure your feet are completely dry before putting on socks, stockings or tights.
  • Wear clothing made from natural fibres instead of synthetics to prevent sweating and to avoid warm, moist skin areas developing.
  • Wear socks and shoes made from natural materials, such as cotton, when possible and try to choose footwear that keeps your feet cool and dry.
  • Change socks, tights or stockings and bra every day.

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