KOH (potassium hydroxide) preparation

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KOH (potassium hydroxide) preparation

Examination Overview

The KOH (potassium hydroxide) preparation is used to find out whether a fungal infection is present on the skin.

A sample of skin is taken by lightly scraping the infected area.

The skin sample is placed on a slide with KOH solution and gently heated. This solution slowly dissolves the skin cells but not the fungus cells. The fungus cells can then be seen with a microscope. Colour stains may be used so that the fungus is easier to see.

Why It Is Done

If you have patches of skin that are itchy, red, or scaly with blister-like bumps on the edges, a KOH test may be done to find out whether you have a fungal infection of the skin.

Results

Findings of a KOH test may include the following:

Normal

No fungi are present in the skin samples.

Abnormal

Fungi are present in the skin samples.

What To Think About

A doctor may be able to know if you have a fungal infection by the appearance of the rash and may not need to do a KOH test.

If the KOH preparation shows that you do not have a fungal infection, other tests may be done to figure out the cause of the skin problem.

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

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Last Revised January 28, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.