There are many causes of the itch down there, but it is not advisable to use over-the-counter creams without a proper medical diagnosis.
"It may be embarrassing to share your concerns about this uncomfortable itch," says Dr Pang Shiu Ming, Director and Senior Consultant, Department of Dermatology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH). But more often than not, the cause of your testicular itching can be easily treated.
What's causing the itch?
Actually, the term testicular itch is incorrect as the testicles are inside the scrotal sac and they don't itch. What is commonly affected by an itchy rash is the skin of the scrotal sac and the groin. The pubic area, the shaft of the penis and the tip of the penis are less commonly affected.
Types of itch that can affect the scrotal skin
- Eczema: "This is a chronic skin condition marked by itching, inflammation, redness, and swelling of the skin," says Dr Pang. "While there's no cure for eczema, it can be treated to prevent flare-ups."
Related article: How to prevent eczema flare-ups
- Extramammary Paget's disease of the scrotal skin is a skin cancer that may look similar to eczema. If an eczematous rash does not respond to treatment, this more serious condition is suspected. This rash sometimes involves the groin and the anal skin.
Types of itch that can affect the groin
- Tinea cruris (dermatophyte infection — a kind of fungal infection also called jock itch): This is an itchy, irritable rash in the groin area that mostly affects men. It is typically associated with sweating and tight clothing.
Dr Pang explains: "There is usually intense itching in the groin area. Sometimes, there might be a red rash with scaly edges, which usually starts in the folds of the skin and spreads from there." Women may also have tinea cruris but it is less common than in men.
- Candidiasis (yeast infection — a kind of fungal infection): "Both men and women can be infected," says Dr Pang. In women the infection may also involve the vagina, causing a profuse cheese-like discharge associated with burning or an intense itch. In men, it may be associated with infection of the glans penis which may be the first sign of diabetes mellitus.
Candidiasis may be caused by sexual contact with an infected person ("ping-pong" infection) or from using antibiotics that disturb the gut bacteria flora. The yeast infection typically causes irritation, burning, itching and pain in the groin area. Apart from diabetes mellitus, pregnancy may also make the female more prone to candidiasis.
Related article: 7 tips to prevent yeast infections
- Psoriasis: This chronic skin disorder is marked by raised areas of red, thickened skin with silvery scales on the knees, elbows, lower back and scalp. When psoriasis affects the groin, it looks different from psoriasis elsewhere because the moisture in the groin area makes the psoriasis appear in red patches instead of thickened, scaly skin.
- Seborrhoeic dermatitis may also affect the groin and may look similar to psoriasis.
Instead of scratching the affected area (and causing a superimposed infection), it is important to see a doctor to get the correct diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.
Your lifestyle habits can also make a difference. Try these tips to stop the itching:
- Wash your groin daily, and dry the area thoroughly: This is probably the most important step you can take to keep your groin healthy. Dr Pang explains: "Fungi thrive in warm, moist and airless areas of the body like your groin. By keeping it dry, you're preventing the fungi from multiplying and causing an infection."
- Change your underwear daily: "When you wear unwashed underwear, the fungi present may multiply within the skin flakes," says Dr Pang. "This can also cause a fungal infection."
Related article: What are some less common causes of itch down there?
- Use your own towel in the gym: Most gyms provide clean towels that are frequently washed. So make sure you pick a fresh towel after a workout, and avoid sharing towels with your gym buddy. Wear a pair of slippers in the communal bathroom. Fungus on the floor may cause an infection of the feet that can spread to the groin.
- Use fragrance-free soaps: Your itch could simply be a reaction to certain soaps. Avoid medicated soaps and bubble bath.
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