There are many ailments that are normally thought of as being gender specific. The problem of jock itch is usually considered to be a male problem, but there should be concern among the female community as well. Women can (and do) get jock itch and the causes, symptoms and treatments are surprisingly similar to that of men.
Jock itch is a fungal infection, tinea cruris, and it thrives in warm, moist spaces such as locker rooms. It passes easily by sharing towels or from surface contact. It flourishes in the groin area because that is a warm, humid place. Like athlete’s foot, jock itch may manifest elsewhere on the body, such as the armpits. The rash, like prickly heat, alternately burns or is maddeningly itchy. The surface of the skin can become scabrous from excessive scratching – this invites secondary bacterial infections.
Female jock itch is actually the same disease that men get. And, like the male version, jock itch in women is caught in public places where fungus grows: spas, sports clubs, gyms, or aerobics classes, anyplace that a warm, damp environment invites fungal growth.
In women, the jock itch fungus may find at least one extra place of infection. As in men, women may develop jock itch along their inside, upper thighs, or their armpits. More annoying is the area directly under the breasts (where skin-to-skin contact between chest and breast creates dampness, and bra cups and bands may irritate).
What is jock itch in women? It starts as a flat, red, itchy rash high up on the inside of one or both thighs. It then spreads outward in a ring-like pattern while the center turns pale and partially clears up. As it progresses, the outer edge becomes a beefy red color and is slightly raised. Untreated, jock itch in women can spread to the buttocks and (more critically) to the genital area.
Diagnosis is often nothing more intensive than a quick visual inspection – jock itch’s familiar patterns generally present no mysteries to physicians. Because certain yeast infections may appear similar like psoriasis, skin asthma or eczema, a doctor may take a gentle scraping to confirm tinea cruris in cultures.
Treatment is simple. A topical antifungal is usually prescribed to apply once or twice a day for at least two weeks. This may take one to two months before all signs of the rash disappear. If the itching becomes unbearable while the rash heals there are many anti-itch creams available over-the-counter.
Jock itch can recur, so some simple precautions can help prevent its return. Shower immediately after athletic activities – this clears the skin of perspiration and other bacteria, and presents a clean surface sooner. Drying well after showers, especially if using a public shower, is a must. Do not share clothing or other athletic wear or towels with anyone – the fungus is easily passed in this way. Afterward, women should wear loose clothing – tighter garments promote moisture and heat, creating an ideal situation for the fungus to flare up again.
Can women get jock itch? Yes, but it does not have to be distracting or painful with just the basic tips spelled out above.