What is groin irritation and infection?
Irritation in the groin (the area between where your stomach ends and your legs begin) can be painful and annoying. There are many causes, including:
- getting sand in your swimming costume or board shorts
- a build-up of sweat after exercise
- excess rubbing to the area such as through exercise or sex
- lubricants and spermicides
- latex products, such as condoms
- soaps, shower gels, shampoos, deodorants or hygiene sprays
- disinfectants, antiseptics and ointments
- washing powders or liquids
- new underwear, especially if it is not made from cotton
Skin inflammation that is due to contact with different substances is called contact dermatitis.
Irritation can also be due to:
- skin conditions such as eczema, or psoriasis
- skin infections
- infestations such as scabies or pubic lice (crabs)
- skin cancer
Groin infections can be caused by:
- fungus (such as tinea or ‘jock itch’)
- sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like herpes
- other viral or bacterial skin infections
What are the symptoms of groin irritation or infection?
Irritation or infection of the skin in the groin area can cause symptoms such as:
- itching, burning or stinging
- change in colour of the skin of the groin or genitals
- sores on the skin (including blisters, ulcers or warts)
- flaking, dry skin
- thickened skin
Skin changes can also affect the genital area, which may make it painful to urinate (wee) or have sex.
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When should I see my doctor?
See your doctor if you have symptoms that are new for you and not getting better with simple self-care measures.
Also see your doctor if you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or have issues urinating.
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How is a groin irritation or infection diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine your groin area. They may examine the skin on the rest of your body too.
Your doctor will often be able to diagnose the cause of the irritation from your medical history and by examining you, but in some cases they may:
- take a swab or biopsy of some skin for testing
- recommend a urine test
- recommend blood tests
- refer you to a skin specialist (a dermatologist)
What is the treatment for groin skin irritation?
There are a number of treatments for groin skin irritations and infections. Treatments will depend on the cause of the problem. But there are some general things you can do to ease the symptoms.
Here are some tips for care of irritated groin skin.
- You can ease the irritation by using a cool compress or an ice pack — ice packs should never be placed directly on the skin but should be wrapped in something soft like a tea towel.
- Wear loose, cotton clothes.
- Avoid overheating.
- Wash the area with cool water and a soft cloth. Avoid soap and perfumed products.
- Use an emollient (a medical moisturiser) such as sorbolene cream.
- If you have broken skin or sores, don’t put on any cream or lotion until you have checked with your doctor. Don’t use any cream or lotion you already have at home until you have discussed your problem with a doctor or pharmacist.
- If you are in pain, get advice on medicines you can take. A pharmacist can advise you on soothing creams and lotions.
- Do not share towels while your groin skin is irritated or if you have a skin infection.
Treatment for groin infections will depend on the type of infection you have.
Some fungal skin infections will clear up by themselves if you keep the area clean and dry. But if you have a groin infection that you have not had before, or any irritation that is not improving, you should see a doctor.
A mild infection should clear up quickly with an over-the-counter ointment from a pharmacy. However, if that does not work you may need a prescription medicine.
If you have a sexually transmitted infection, you may need antibiotics or other medicine. If you are told you have a sexually transmitted infection, your doctor will talk to you about telling your sexual partners so that they can also be examined and treated as necessary. Avoid sexual contact until your doctor says it is OK.
Other types of bacterial skin infection may also need antibiotic treatment.
Lice or scabies
Other causes of groin irritation such as pubic and body lice or scabies need to be treated with medicated creams or washes. Other family or household members may also need to be treated. You will also need to clean your house by washing bedding and towels. Talk to your doctor about this.
Skin allergy or dermatitis
If the cause of the irritation is an allergy, you must try to avoid the trigger in future.
Other skin conditions
Treatment of your skin conditions depends on your diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend prescription ointments or other treatments to be taken as directed.
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Last reviewed: May 2022