Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of widow spider bites
- David L Swanson, MD
David L Swanson, MD
- Associate Professor of Dermatology
- Mayo Clinic
- Richard S Vetter, MS
Richard S Vetter, MS
- Department of Entomology
- University of California, Riverside
- Julian White, AM, MB, BS, MD, FACTM
Julian White, AM, MB, BS, MD, FACTM
- The University of Adelaide
- Section Editors
- Stephen J Traub, MD
Stephen J Traub, MD
- Section Editor — Toxicology
- Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine
- Mayo Medical School
- Daniel F Danzl, MD
Daniel F Danzl, MD
- Section Editor — Environmental Emergencies
- Professor of Emergency Medicine
- University of Louisville School of Medicine
- Deputy Editor
- James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH
- Senior Deputy Editor — Adult and Pediatric Emergency Medicine
- Senior Deputy Editor — Primary Care Sports Medicine (Adolescents and Adults)
- Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine/Traumatology
- University of Connecticut School of Medicine
This topic will review the biology of widow spiders (genus Latrodectus) and the clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and differential diagnosis, of their bites. Management of widow spider bites, an overview of spider bites, and the management of bites of other spiders are discussed separately. (See "Approach to the patient with a suspected spider bite: An overview" and "Bites of recluse spiders".)
Both widow spiders and false widow spiders are of medical importance, although the bites of the former are generally of greater concern.
Widow spiders (Genus Latrodectus) — Widow spiders belong to the family Theridiidae, genus Latrodectus. Latrodectism is the term for the medical manifestations of bites by widow spiders [1,2]. (See "Approach to the patient with a suspected spider bite: An overview".)
There are approximately 30 species of widow spiders found worldwide . Not all have been implicated in human bites, although this may be partly due to the remote distribution of the spiders away from human populations. Female widow spiders are responsible for most significant bites. Males have less venom, smaller fangs, and weaker biting muscles.
Identification — Most adult widow spiders are shiny black with red markings on the body, although this is not universal. American widow spiders range from 5 to 15 mm (0.25 to 0.5 inch) in total body length with an abdominal diameter of about 10 mm (0.5 inch). The most common species of medical importance are the following:
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- Widow spiders (Genus Latrodectus)
- - Identification
- - Geographic distribution
- - Habitat
- - Venom properties
- False black widow spiders (Genus Steatoda)
- - Identification
- - Geographic distribution
- - Habitat
- CLINICAL MANIFESTATIONS
- Black widow spiders
- - History
- - Physical findings
- - Laboratory abnormalities
- False black widow spiders
- DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS
- Surgical abdomen
- Myocardial ischemia or infarction
- ADDITIONAL RESOURCES