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Reported Bilateral Brown Recluse Bites

10 Years of Pain Following a Possible Brown Recluse Spider Bite

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Updated February 01, 2010

Reported Bilateral Brown Recluse Bites

The patient's right foot has been partially amputated. Amputations are fairly common in long-term diabetic patients, no spiders necessary.

(c) Ivonne H.
Ivonne H. shared this picture of her diabetic mother's tissue damage following what the family believes were brown recluse spider bites. According to Ivonne, her mother was bitten twice, in Alaska on one foot and in Utah on the other. Ivonne says her mom felt the first bite. While walking, Ivonne's mom felt a sharp pain and ignored it, thinking it was a lost needle in the carpet.

Ivonne's mother began feeling pain in her leg and went to the doctor, who diagnosed the pain as being "weather related." After a while, the pain got worse and the damage became visible. Ivonne describes the wound as looking like a "colander." Eventually, part of her mother's right foot had to be amputated.

But Is It a Spider Bite?

Reading Ivonne's account of her mother's struggle, I can't help but wonder if a spider ever had anything to do with the wound. Ivonne says her mom suffered from diabetes, which often leads to circulation problems that are especially bad in the feet and legs. Many diabetic patients suffer from cellulitis (inflamed skin cells) that can get bad enough to need amputation.

I'm also skeptical because Ivonne's mom was supposed to have two separate spider bites, one on each foot. Spider bites are rare; brown recluse bites are rarer yet, and the odds of getting a brown recluse bite on one foot in Alaska followed by a brown recluse bite on the other foot in Utah -- neither state is in the brown recluse's known habitat -- are well beyond my mathematic ability to calculate.

Staphylococcus aureas or group A streptococcus both cause skin infections that are regularly mistaken for spider bites. Combine that with the fact that diabetic patients are at a higher risk for foot infections and you have the perfect storm for bilateral (both right and left) tissue damage of the type in the picture.

Whether caused by spider bites or skin infections, wounds like these are painful and dangerous. It's important to seek medical attention when a wound starts to form. Your doctor may be able to identify the cause and treat it.

Have a spider bite you want to share? Submit a picture of your spider bite.

Want to talk about spider bites? Ask others and see more bites on the First Aid Forum.

Source:

Frithsen, Ivar L., Richard S. Vetter and Ian C. Stocks. "Reports of Envenomation by Brown Recluse Spiders Exceed Verified Specimens of Loxosceles Spiders in South Carolina." Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 20 (5): 483-488 (2007)

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