Jock itch is often mistakenly thought to be a skin infection that affects only males but it can also occur in females. It is a fungal infection of the skin of the groin – the area between the thighs and torso. These infections are common and can extend to the external genitalia or the upper part of the inner thigh. Jock itch is just another form of athlete’s foot – one arises on the groin area while the other is seen on the genitalia. The correct medical term for this type of fungal infection is tinea cruris but apart from jock itch, it is also known by many common names across the globe such crotch itch, gym itch, groin ringworm and dhobie itch.
Causes of Jock Itch in Women
Jock itch is mainly caused by a certain type of skin fungi known as dermatophytes. The two species that are most likely to be responsible for a groin skin fungus is Trichophyton rubrum and Epidermophyton floccosum. Less often, other Trichophyton species and Candidia (yeasts) may also cause a fungal infection of the skin. Although many people are exposed to these fungi, a skin infection only occurs in some. There are number of known risks but even in the face of these factors, it appears that individual susceptibility which may be genetic or some other as yet unidentified mechanism is a major component of developing fungal infections of the skin.
A fungal infection of the groin is more likely to arise with some underlying skin disease. A common predisposing factor in this regard is intertrigo – chaffing of the skin. This is more common in obese women where the skin folds provide two opposing surfaces for abrasion. Another factor in terms of chaffing is tight underwear which may irritate the skin in the area and make it prone to a fungal infection. Furthermore, the groin area is generally warm and moist as it is covered for most of the day and this provides the ideal conditions for fungi to thrive.
Although jock itch is more common in males, it is likely to arise in any person with one or more of these risk factors apart from those mentioned above :
- Living in a hot and humid climate
- Poorly fitting undergarments – too tight
- Using repeat courses of broad spectrum antibiotics
- Diabetes mellitus
- Immune deficiency
- Excessive sweating
- Poor personal hygiene
- Wearing wet clothes
- Not wiping dry properly after bathing
- Sharing personal items such as towels or underwear with an infected person
Signs and Symptoms of Jock Itch
The most common symptom is an itchy skin rash. It is usually a persistent itch which may ease with scratching but tends to return a short while later. The skin tends be scaling or peeling and while the area is initially red, it gradually becomes darker in color. A person often finds small specks of skin after scratching the area intensely. Sometimes there is musty odor with dampness in the area even without sweating. Burning, pain and heat in the area with a foul smelling discharge may indicate a superimposed bacterial infection.
Treatment of Jock Itch in Women
There are a number of topical and oral medication that can help to eradicate the fungus. Antifungal shampoo should be used in the area at least twice a week and antifungal cream should be applied to the area at least twice a day after bathing. Underwear needs to be changed twice daily and older underwear should be discarded at the start of treatment as it may contain fungal spores which can re-infect the area. The area must be kept dry with thorough wiping after bathing and using an antifungal drying powder if necessary. Oral antifungal drugs are only considered if the infection does not respond to topical applications. A low dose corticosteroid cream may help to relieve itching but long term use should be avoided as it can weaken the skin. Antibiotics are necessary when there is a secondary bacterial infection.