Itching in the groin region could be a sign of a fungal infection called tinea cruris. This HealthHearty write-up provides information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this infection.
Itching in the groin is a very discomforting condition. More often than not, poor hygiene, friction from tight underwear, or excessive sweating in the groin puts one at a risk of developing a fungal infection. At times, the infection could occur due to direct or indirect contact with a person affected by ringworm of the groin. While fungi are mostly responsible for infections, bacteria could also be the causal agents. Itching in the groin could also be caused due to other conditions. The following sections list out these conditions.
Some of the common causes of itching in the groin are:
Ringworm of the Groin
Commonly known as jock itch or the ringworm of the groin, Tinea cruris is an infection that is caused by the overgrowth of a fungus. Usually, fungal infections are caused by different types of microscopic mold-like fungi called dermatophytes. The causal agents for this condition include Epidermophyton floccosum and Tricophyton rubrum. These dermatophytes thrive in warm and moist areas such as the inner thighs or skin folds of the groin region. The infection could be triggered by friction from clothes and moistness in the groin area due to sweating. Jock itch mostly affects men, and is characterized by the following symptoms:
➻ Red/pink round rashes with defined edges and a pale center
➻ Abnormally dark or light skin
➻ Scaly patches that may blister and ooze
➻ Itching and/or burning sensation in the groin, thigh, or anal area
➻ Flaking, peeling, or cracking of the skin
The infection can spread to others through direct and indirect contact.
Lichen Simplex Chronicus
Lichen simplex chronicus refers to a condition wherein persistent scratching of the skin causes the affected skin to become lichenified (dark, thick, and leathery). The causes of itching could include different forms of dermatitis (atopic dermatitis, discoid dermatitis), ringworm, psoriasis, etc.
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that is characterized by itching, burning sensation of the skin, formation of scaly patches, thickened skin, or red bumps that ooze, drain, and crust over. It could be caused due to environmental irritants, stress, temperature changes, or family history of certain allergic conditions like asthma, hay fever, etc.
Phthirus pubis, which is commonly referred to as pubic lice, could cause itching of the groin. Infestation of pubic lice generally occurs due to sexual activity. Pubic lice are small, six-legged organisms that lay eggs in the pubic hair. These could also be found in armpit hair and eyebrows. An infestation could occur due to sexual contact with an infected person, or sharing bedding, towels, or clothes with an infected person. Contact with infected objects like toilet seats, sheets, and blankets could also be a contributing factor. Itching is a common symptom of such an infestation. It has been observed that itching worsens at night. Moreover, skin might turn bluish-gray in color, and scratching could lead to the development of sores in the genital region.
Besides the aforementioned conditions, irritation from clothes, presence of many skin folds due to obesity, excessive sweating, wearing same or tight clothes for a long time, diabetes, etc., could make one susceptible to infections in this region.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Usually, a physical examination can help in diagnosing jock itch or other skin problems that could cause rashes. However, to confirm the diagnosis, either a culture or a skin lesion biopsy can be performed. A KOH test may be conducted. In this test, the skin is scraped with a scalpel on a glass slide, and a few drops of potassium hydroxide (KOH) are put on to the slide. Thereafter, the slide is heated for some time. The test works by releasing the hyphae (threadlike filaments forming the mycelium of a fungus).
In case of recurrent infections or infections that last longer than two weeks, proper diagnosis and treatment is required. In case of jock itch, antifungal creams (medicines containing ketoconazole/terbinafine) or oral antifungals may be prescribed by the doctor. Over-the-counter drying powders that contain miconazole, clotrimazole, or tolnaftate are also effective in providing relief from discomfort and itching in the groin.
Besides drug therapy, certain precautionary measures must be taken to keep the skin clean and dry. It is advisable to wash the groin area with a gentle soap and water. Wearing loose underwear, especially the ones made from breathable fabrics like cotton, would help. Also, avoid sharing clothes and towels. Paying attention to hygiene is the best way to prevent such infections.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.