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Black Widow Bite Leaves Man Unable to Pee

January 2nd, 2019

Nobody wants to get bitten by a spider, let alone a black widow. The resulting pain and sickness is bad enough, but one man got even more than this after his unfortunate meeting with a black widow spider. You don’t generally associate losing the ability to pee with getting a black widow bite, but this is exactly what happened to one poor man in Canada. After getting bitten by a black widow spider, the man developed what is called acute urinary retention, which basically means he really needed to pee but simply couldn’t. That pretty much sounds like my worst family vacation road trips.

A 50 year old man from southern Ontario stumbled across a black widow spider while he was walking through the tall grass near his cottage. While black widow spiders are rarely found in Canada, changes in climate have been pushing them farther north, and there is one species of northern black widow now known to inhabit the southern part of Ontario where the man lives. When it happened the man didn’t think much of it, assuming it was just a regular black spider. He would be singing a different tune in just a couple of hours.

Two hours after being bitten the man began to feel excruciating pain in his foot, which steadily worsened through the night. By the next morning the man had also developed pain in his abdomen as well as his increasing pain in his foot. He visited the emergency room, but was sent home when the doctors decided his pain was caused by a kidney stone, and the spider bite was unrelated. When he returned later that day after the pain had continued to get worse the doctors sent him to a bigger hospital to get tested further.

By the time the doctor at the next hospital was treating him, the man was sweating heavily and his eyelids were swollen in addition to the horrible pain he was already experiencing. After running a CT scan, the doctor found that his bladder was extremely distended. This is what convinced the doctors that he was likely bitten by a northern black widow spider. While the venom from a black widow spider can cause all sorts of problems with the variety of toxins it contains, one of the medical syndromes is can cause is “latrodectism.” Symptoms include heavy sweating, high blood pressure, and muscle pain. The venom also releases a flood of neurotransmitters and vasodilators. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine as well as the man’s advanced age (he likely had a bit of an enlarged prostate) could explain why the man had developed urinary retention and couldn’t pee. A catheter was used to drain the man’s urine, and after doing that along with other procedures to lower his blood pressure and relieve his other symptoms, the man was able to go home in a few days, able to pee once more.

Have you ever been bitten by a spider and had a bad reaction? What were the symptoms?

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