Fungal culture for athlete's foot

Exam Overview

A fungal culture is used to determine whether fungi are present and, if so, what type of fungus it is.

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 type of fungus can often be identified by using a microscope to look at the shape of the cells or by detecting color that appears when the cells are stained with special dyes.

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 determine the cause of cracking, scaling, peeling, or blistered skin, or if 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

Normal

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

Abnormal

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 necessary. Your doctor may suggest you treat the infection with nonprescription or prescription antifungal medicine.

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Last Updated: July 2, 2008

Author: Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine

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