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Poisonous Lizards

Topic Overview

The Gila monster and the Mexican beaded lizard are two types of poisonous (venomous) lizards found in North America. These large, thick-bodied lizards have short, stubby limbs. They live in desert regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

Poisonous lizards do not generally bite unless they are handled. Lizards bite with teeth rather than fangs. Venom enters the bite wound by dripping down grooves in the teeth rather than being injected through fangs, as it is with poisonous snakes. Lizards tend to hang on to their victims, making them hard to remove once they have bitten. Dry bites, in which no venom is released, may occur. But lizard bites are less likely to be dry than are snakebites.

The force of the jaws of a lizard can cause a crushing, or compression, injury. These injuries can cause severe swelling and may damage underlying tissues, blood vessels, nerves, joints, or bones. The force may cause the skin to split open or scrape off. Tissue may be damaged either from the bite itself or from attempts to remove the lizard.

Symptoms at the site of a poisonous lizard bite may include:

  • Moderate to severe bleeding.
  • Throbbing or burning pain.
  • Swelling that gradually gets worse over several hours.
  • Teeth left in the wound.

More general symptoms may include:

  • Weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.

If you think you have been bitten by a poisonous lizard, call 911 or other emergency services immediately.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Sean P. Bush, MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine, Envenomation Specialist
Current as of June 4, 2014

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