KOH (Potassium Hydroxide) Preparation
Doctors use the KOH preparation to find out whether a fungal
infection is present on the nails, skin, scalp, or beard.
A doctor or nurse takes a sample of skin by lightly scraping the
infected area that is scaling or flaking.
The doctor or nurse places the nail, skin, or hair sample on a slide with
potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution and gently heats it. This solution slowly
dissolves the skin cells but not the fungus cells. The fungus cells are then
visible with a microscope. Color stains may be used so that the fungus is
easier to see.
Why It Is Done
A doctor may do a KOH test to find out whether a person
has a fungal infection. Fungal infections may cause:
Ringworm of the scalp or beard . With this infection, a person has flakes of dead skin (dandruff) on the hair; broken, crusted, or
matted hair; redness or irritation of the scalp or beard; swollen areas and
blisterlike bumps with pus (kerions); and/or hair loss.
Ringworm of the skin . With this infection, a person has patches of skin
that are itchy, red, or scaly, with blisterlike bumps on the edges.
Athlete's foot. With this infection, a person has peeling, cracking, and scaling on the bottoms of the feet or between the toes , or blistered skin on the feet .
Findings of a KOH test may include the following:
No fungi are present in the nail, skin, or hair samples.
Other tests may be done to find out the cause of the skin
Fungi are present in the nail, skin, or hair samples.
What To Think About
Your doctor may be able to find out whether you have a fungal
infection by the appearance of the rash and may not need to do a KOH
Complete the medical test information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.
Primary Medical Reviewer
||Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
||John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Current as of
||March 12, 2014