What is jock itch?

Skin Problems Image Gallery It may not be polite, but if you've got a case of jock itch, you might not be able to help it. See more pictures of skin problems.

Your groin is a popular spot for fungi to mingle. The fungi are called dermatophytes, and they're always on your skin. In those dark, damp conditions that sometimes occur "down there," dermatophytes can also multiply and spread. Make it dark and damp enough, and these fungi can grow out of control.

If you add sweat and friction to the mix, those points-of-contact and skin folds in your leg and groin area become agitated, and the skin breaks. Bacteria get into the wound, inflaming the skin. The bacteria then multiply under the dank conditions that sometimes occur in your groin area.

There are several different fungal infections that can take root south of your torso. There's intertrigo, a common rash that appears brownish, oozy and, in time, crusty. Up close, the affected area will appear to have tiny little lacerations. Or it could be folliculitis, in which your hair follicles form little whiteheads. Perhaps it's inverse psoriasis, usually caused by thighs rubbing against each other and resulting in redness. And then there's erythrasma, a bacterial infection that gets red and just mildly itchy.

But the most infamous groin rash starts pretty inconspicuously, as a little itch that's hardly a bother. Give it time, though, and that itch will grow to crazy proportions, leading to relief-seeking behaviors that aren't appropriate in most public spaces. This itchy predicament is known as tinea cruris, or jock itch.

Here's to hoping the affected area is in the crease where your leg meets your torso. That's your groin, and it's a common place for jock itch to start. Under the right (or wrong) conditions, it can spread to your inner thighs or your buttocks. It can even spread to your genitals or anus.

But only jocks get it, right? Yeah, they do -- but you can, too. Contrary to popular belief, jock itch affects both men and women, athletes and nonathletes.

What else should you know about jock itch? How do you get it, how do you prevent it, and how the heck do you get rid of it? You're going to be laundering some undies today, but hold off until you read the next page.