Medications: Antibiotics, Clindamycin, Neosporin, Vancomycin
1st Round: 2 weeks of Sulfa, 2nd Round: 10 days of Clindamycin 3x daily, 3rd Round: 10 days of Clindamycin 3x daily
I was bitten on Monday, while I was knee-deep in dead honeysuckle vines that we'd pulled from the fence. I was wearing jeans and shoes with no socks. I figure the spider crawled up my leg and bit me right where the jeans met the shin - it's just a few inches below my knee.
Moral of the story? Don't stand around in dead brush without proper protection!
I never saw the spider. I remember feeling a stinging sensation (like a pinprick) but we were hacking brush, pieces were flying everywhere, and at the time I thought a piece of bark had worked its way up there.
Monday night I noticed a red spot and a small white head. I scratched the head off, applied antibiotic ointment, and put a bandaid on it. Tuesday the head was back, and larger. I lanced it, and a teaspoon of matter came out. I thought it was a staph infection. I washed it with hydrogen peroxide, put more antibiotic ointment on it, and another bandaid. That night I applied a hot teabag, figuring the antiseptic tea and heat would help keep the wound clean. Wednesday the spot had turned into a yellow-white round circle with a red ring, the leg was getting red and swollen, and the bite itself had swollen up to the size of a grape. There was a blister beneath the hole that had popped, and blood serum had run out. I figured this was no ordinary staph infection. It was time to go to the doctor.
Doc prescribed a two-week course of sulfa. I went to work that day, and found that it was hard to stand on that leg. I work at a desk, so it didn't bother me until I stood up. I went home that night a little early because of the pain. When I got home, I found I was running a temperature of 100°. I took Ibuprofen for the pain and to reduce the temperature, and propped my feet up on the table. My leg had gotten really big by this point. The bite itself had swollen to the size of a golf ball, and got really purple and black. The redness was all up and down my leg. That night, I had chills and cold sweats.
Thursday, it was so painful I could barely walk. Clothing was out, as everything rubbed against the bite. I was still running a temp, so took some more Ibuprofen. I slept most of the day. The swollen area had no sensation, which worried me.
Friday the leg had gone down a little, and I was able to walk a little more. Saturday it wasn't doing too badly. Two Ibuprofen and I was actually able to walk around without pain. I tried drinking a beer and thought I was about to throw up - sulfa will make you nauseous if you drink alcohol. Sunday the leg had gone down, but the bite was still just as big. My foot and ankle were really swollen.
Monday morning the dead spot started leaking around the edges, and a lot of thick blood came out. The first picture is from Monday, right before I decided to help things along a bit. The swelling went down, but came back the next day. Tuesday the bite started oozing light-colored blood - blood serum with a few blood cells. It might have also been white blood cells, but it was hard to tell.
Second photo was taken Wednesday (today.) It was painful to stand up in the morning, but after the blood expanded the area, it stopped hurting. I haven't had to take any pain medication today. My leg is brownish-purple-gray-pink, but it's mostly back to normal. The redness has shrunk to a six-inch irregular circle around the bite, and gotten a little darker. There's still a little fluid and puffiness around the ankle. The bite itself is shedding skin and exposing the necrotic tissue underneath. It's also leaking a lot, which I guess is good. I'm drinking lots of water and taking Vitamin E to help the healing along. The ring around the white spot has turned black and the skin around the hole looks a little weird. I'm not sure whether it's dead skin that will eventually come off, or whether the skin itself is just stained from the blood that flooded the tissues. (Like a bruise.) I've noticed two more tiny holes above the first. Is that more bites from the same spider? Or did my skin decide to pit in those areas? I don't know.
(Later) It's Thursday, and the odd-looking skin around the hole has begun to pit. I'm a little worried. I think all the brown-black-purple skin around the hole is going to come off, revealing raw flesh. I'm not looking forward to it! The wound is leaking pink blood serum constantly, and I'm changing the bandage twice a day. However, I'm almost pain-free, so things are better.
(Later Still) It's Thursday a week later, and my round of sulfa has run out. I went to the doc yesterday, and she prescribed another round of antibiotics - clindamycin this time. She thinks it's a staph infection. I admit the possibility, but I've had staph infections before, and they didn't act like this. Typically a staph infection turns into a giant boil on me, and this is more like a ever-widening hole. I've never run a fever, had chills or cold sweats from a staph infection. And after two weeks of sulfa, you'd think that would have killed anything alive. But we'll see - she's doing a culture on the fluid she scraped from the center.
The hole is getting bigger. (See photo) I've marked a dotted white line around the skin that I know is without sensation. My fear is that eventually the hole will widen to the dotted line - if this is a spider bite, and that skin is dead, I don't see any other possibility. And if this isn't a spider bite, but merely (hah!) a staph infection, then I'm really worried.
My hole is itching like crazy, as well as the healthy skin around the outside. It doesn't take much to relieve the itch - rub gently on the bandage and it's enough to kill it. Pain-relieving antibiotic ointment helps for a bit.
I'll go to the doctor again in another week, and I guess I'll find out then whether this is staph or a spider bite.
(One Week Later) It's Wednesday, and I've just been to the doctor's office. The nurse tells me that I was probably bitten by a spider, and the staph infection I got was secondary. Makes sense. I was concerned because I thought the hole was getting bigger, but the nurse didn't seem too worried. She says she can see granulation in the tissue, which is the new growth of capillaries. Those little capillaries will help heal the tissue from the inside out. The clindamycin is doing a great job on the methicillin-resistant staph infection.
I'll keep an eye on the hole to make sure it doesn't get any bigger, and continue to take care of the wound - but it looks like it's on the mend.
Update - 1 year, 4 months later...
After 8 months, the hole finally sealed over. It took another large round of clindamycin, lots of rest, and regular exercise to help close the wound. There's an ugly crater in my leg, and the center is still numb. I don't know that I'll ever get feeling back in that part of my leg! The flesh looks ugly but healthy, and itches occasionally.
Recently I've been having numbness and tingling throughout my body - nothing consistent, but the back of my left hand will be numb one day, then the next, my big toe on the right foot, or my forehead on the left side. This goes along with a lightheaded feeling, rather like I've got a little buzz from smoking a cigarette. Vision problems, muscle cramps, esophageal spasms - a whole host of weird symptoms. When it's really bad, I feel a little dizzy and unsure that I can make correct decisions. I've also had equilibrium problems - for two days, I couldn't walk in a straight line. I told my doctor about this, and she scheduled me for an MRI. The results came back and say that I have a probable lesion on the right side of the brain, and two possible punctate lesions on the left side.
I don't know if the two events are connected. Research says that multiple sclerosis (which my symptoms resemble) can be brought on by a traumatic event, such as a major illness. I think it's possible that my immune system, traumatized by spider bite venom, began attacking the myelin sheaths of my nerves.
Weird, huh? I have yet to see the neurologist about my MRI scans - and I can already guess that I'll have to go and get another MRI, just so there'll be something to compare the first set to.
March 18, 2008:
It's been confirmed that I have multiple sclerosis. I believe that I've had MS for years, and the spider bite was traumatic enough that it triggered a flare. I'm curious as to how much damage the spider did - I have a lesion in my right cerebellum, and the bite was in my right leg. Now my right leg is atrophying a little, and is frequently numb and tingly. The knee sometimes folds up because of muscle weakness.