What happens if Russell viper bites?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

When a person is bitten by a Russell’s viper, the venom injected can cause a range of severe symptoms and complications. It is important to note that the severity and progression of these symptoms may vary from person to person.

Local envenoming is one of the immediate effects of a Russell’s viper bite. This can include pain, swelling, and discoloration at the site of the bite. The venom can also lead to the breakdown of local tissues, resulting in necrosis or tissue death.

One of the most dangerous effects of a Russell’s viper bite is spontaneous bleeding. The venom contains toxins that disrupt normal blood clotting mechanisms, leading to incoagulable blood. This means that the blood is unable to form clots to stop bleeding. As a result, a person may experience bleeding from various sites such as the gums, nose, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, and even into the skin.

Neurological manifestations can also occur following a Russell’s viper bite. This may include symptoms such as headache, dizziness, confusion, and even coma in severe cases. Ptosis, which is drooping of the eyelids, and ophthalmoplegia, which is paralysis of the eye muscles, can also be observed.

In some cases, a descending paralysis may occur, where the paralysis starts in the upper body and progresses to the lower body. This can lead to difficulty breathing and respiratory failure if not promptly treated.

Another potential complication of a Russell’s viper bite is rhabdomyolysis, which is the breakdown of muscle tissue. This can result in muscle pain, weakness, and dark-colored urine due to the release of myoglobin into the bloodstream.

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a serious complication that can occur as a result of Russell’s viper envenoming. The venom can directly damage the kidneys, leading to impaired kidney function. This can manifest as decreased urine output, swelling in the legs, and electrolyte imbalances.

In my experience, I have seen patients who have been bitten by Russell’s vipers and presented with a combination of these symptoms. The severity of the envenoming can vary greatly, with some individuals experiencing milder symptoms while others face life-threatening complications.

It is crucial to seek immediate medical attention if bitten by a Russell’s viper. Treatment typically involves the administration of specific antivenom to neutralize the venom’s effects. Supportive care, including management of bleeding, respiratory support if necessary, and renal support, may also be provided.

A Russell’s viper bite can lead to local envenoming, spontaneous bleeding, neurological manifestations, ptosis, ophthalmoplegia, descending paralysis, rhabdomyolysis, and acute kidney injury. The severity of these symptoms can vary, and prompt medical intervention is crucial to minimize complications and improve outcomes.