There are a number of bodily functions that are so “always on” in the background that, unless you’re actively thinking about them, you probably wouldn’t even know they’re happening: Your heart beats, your lungs breathe, and if you’re a man, your balls itch. I mean, c’mon guys, tell me you’ve never been sitting on the couch, or lying in bed, and you suddenly realize your hand is halfway down your pants, itching away like you’ve got a winning scratch card. It happens to the best of us. But why?
There are plenty of other body parts in dark, moist places that don’t itch at random points of the day, ad infinitum. Lookin’ at you, armpits. What, then, is so special (or, uh, decidedly unspecial) about the crotch region?
“It might be completely normal, if you think of the skin on the scrotum as you think of any other skin on your body,” explains Jamin Brahmbhatt, board-certified urologist and chief of surgery at Orlando Health South Lake Hospital in Florida. “You could have itching from dryness, or it could be a bug bite or irritation from maybe using the wrong laundry detergent, for example.” That said, Brahmbhatt explains that the most common cause of your basic crotch itch is a fungal infection. “This can be from poor hygiene or excess sweating,” he says. “Regularly bathing and keeping the area dry and appropriately moisturized can help prevent cases.”
If you suspect, however, that your itch isn’t of the basic variety — maybe there’s associated changes to the skin in the area, like redness, or the itch really hurts — then it might be a sign of something more serious. “A severe itch can be related to an infection, especially when at the same time there may be some changes in the scrotal skin. The most severe form of infection in the scrotum is something called Fournier gangrene, where you’d have way more symptoms than just an itch. On less likely occasions, it can be caused by STDs such as genital herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia.”
The good news is, Brahmbhatt says that no matter what’s causing the itch down there, it’s rarely a sign of anything wrong internally. And here you thought Fournier gangrene was without a silver lining.