Is a Skin Culture?
A skin culture is used to test for germs that affect your skin,
fingernails, or toenails. It can be called a mucosal culture if it involves your
mucosa membranes. These are the moist linings inside certain areas of your
body, such as your mouth and nose.
Is a Skin Culture Performed?
Your doctor will order a skin culture to look for bacteria,
viruses, or fungi that are causing problems with your skin or nails. For
example, you might have a:
- rash that seems to be infected
- open sore that isn’t healing correctly
- fungal infection
Some conditions that may require a skin culture include:
- impetigo, a common skin infection that’s caused
by strep or staph bacteria
- athlete’s foot
- diabetic foot ulcers
Your doctor will explain the purpose of the test before
taking a sample. Be sure to ask any questions at that time.
of a Skin Culture
A skin culture poses no risks. Your doctor will usually
collect the sample with a sterile cotton swab. If you have an infection in your
fingernails or toenails, they may clip a sample of your nails. Then they’ll send
the sample to a laboratory for analysis.
There may be some minor risks if your doctor decides they
need to collect a sample of skin using a separate procedure, known as a skin lesion biopsy. For this
test, a small sample of your skin will be surgically removed. Before your exam,
Talk to your doctor about the method they will use to collect the sample and
any associated risks.
to Prepare for a Skin Culture
You won’t need to do anything before having a skin culture. In
most cases, your doctor will simply use a cotton swab to collect a sample. This
requires no preparation from you.
If your doctor also needs to conduct a biopsy, they may give
you some easy-to-follow instructions before your test.
a Skin Culture Is Performed
A skin culture is a quick, simple process that can be done
in a hospital or your doctor’s office.
If your doctor is sampling an open wound or ulcer, they will
take a sterile cotton swab and gently run it over the affected area. If you
have an abscess or blister, your doctor may decide to lance, or cut, it. This
will allow them to gather a sample of the pus or fluid inside.
If your doctor wants a sample of your fingernails or
toenails, they may simply snip off a portion of your nail. This is done in the
same way that you trim your nails at home.
After your doctor has collected samples, you are free to go.
Your samples will be packaged and sent to a laboratory,
where the majority of the work is done. There, technicians will run tests to learn
if any bacteria, fungi, or virus may be causing your symptoms. These tests may
take longer if they involve samples of nails.
a Skin Culture
After a skin culture, you can go about your normal
activities immediately. Your doctor will send your samples to the laboratory
When the tests are complete, the lab will send your doctor
the results. Your doctor will call you to discuss your results or schedule a
follow-up appointment. Your treatment options depend upon your results,
including whether your tests showed signs of bacteria, fungi, or viruses.
Usually, the test results are accurate enough to determine
the specific strand of virus, fungi, or bacteria causing your symptoms. This
will help your doctor choose the best course of treatment.
If you notice symptoms of a possible skin or nail infection,
speak with your doctor. You may have a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Your
doctor can use a skin culture to help determine the cause of your symptoms.
This test is simple and low risk. You don’t need to take any special steps to
prepare for it, and you can typically return to your daily activities as soon
as it’s done.