Navigate Up

Women's Center - A-Z Index

#
Y

Print This Page

Skin culture

A skin or nail culture is a laboratory test to look for and identify germs that cause problems with the skin or nails.

It is called a mucosal culture if the sample involves the mucous membranes .

See also: Herpes culture

Alternative Names

Mucosal culture; Culture - skin; Culture - mucosal; Nail culture; Culture - fingernail; Fingernail culture

How the test is performed

Your health care provider may use a cotton swab to collect a sample from an open skin rash or skin sore.

A sample of skin or mucous membrane is needed. For information on how this is done, see:

A small sample of a fingernail or toenail may be taken. It may take up to three weeks to get results for this type of culture.

The sample is sent to a laboratory and checked at different time periods to see if bacteria, virus, or fungus has grown. Further tests can be done to identify the specific germ that is causing your problem. This can help your doctor determine the best treatment.

How to prepare for the test

There is no preparation needed for a culture. For information on how to prepare for a skin or mucosal sample, see:

How the test will feel

The laboratory test does not involve the patient, so it is painless. For information on how it may feel to give a skin or mucosal sample, see:

Why the test is performed

This test may be done to diagnose the cause of:

  • A fungus infection of the skin, finger or toenail
  • A skin rash or sore that appears to be infected
  • A skin ulcer that is not healing

Normal Values

A normal result means no disease-causing germs are seen in the test sample.

Some germs normally live on the skin. These are not a sign of infection and are considered a normal finding.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What abnormal results mean

An abnormal result means bacteria, fungus, or virus is present. This may be a sign of infection.

Common skin infections caused by bacteria include:

Common skin infections caused by fungus include:

What the risks are

A laboratory culture does not pose a risk to the patient. For information on risks related to removing a sample of skin or mucosal tissue, see:

References

Armstrong CA. Examination of the skin and approach to diagnosing skin diseases. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 444.

Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier: pp 491-523.

Updated: 10/22/2011

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com