Fungal Culture for Athlete's Foot

Exam Overview

A fungal culture is used to find out 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 skin sample is placed in a container with a substance (called growth medium or culture medium) that helps fungus grow. If no fungus grows, the culture is negative. If a fungus grows, the culture is positive. The fungus will be identified with a microscope, chemical tests, or both.

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.

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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised June 1, 2012

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