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Fungal Culture for Athlete's Foot

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Exam Overview

A fungal culture is a test to find a fungus that can cause an infection.

Your doctor will take samples by lightly scraping your skin with a sharp blade or the edge of a microscope slide. He or she may also take toenail samples if the nail is infected. The sample of skin is added to a substance that promotes the growth of fungi. If no fungus grows, the culture is negative. If a fungus grows, the culture is positive. The type of fungus may be identified using a microscope or chemical tests. Sometimes other tests are done to find the right medicine for treating the infection. This is called sensitivity testing.

Fungi are slow-growing, so it can take up to 6 weeks to identify the fungi and get results.

Why It Is Done

A fungal culture may be done to find out the cause of cracking, scaling, peeling, or blistered skin, or to find out why there is an area of persistent irritation (and sometimes redness) on the feet. The presence of fungi suggests that the condition is athlete's foot (tinea pedis).

Results

Negative

No fungi are present in the skin or nail scrapings. Other skin tests may be done to find out the cause of the skin or nail problems.

Positive

Fungi are present, and the type of fungus is identified.

Treatment may vary depending on the type of fungus present.

What To Think About

If you have been diagnosed with athlete's foot before and the symptoms have returned, a fungal culture will probably not be needed. Your doctor may suggest you treat the infection with nonprescription or prescription antifungal medicine.

Complete the medical test information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ellen K. Roh, MD - Dermatology

Current as ofOctober 5, 2017

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