Moving from Chicago I never though I would have to start worrying about wild sea creatures causing pain to my patient’s feet. But now I realize that the hazards of the ocean are real and the injury caused by stingrays can be devastating.
Stingrays are cartilaginous creatures that are a relative of the shark family. They typically are found in the sand located in shallow waters. Stingrays are not violent in nature but they will defend themselves if they feel threatened. The way they defend themselves is with their serrated barb. The barb also has venom that secretes into its victim. The barb is quite powerful and can penetrate boots and even a wetsuit. The pain involved with a stingray barb injury can be quite excruciating. The venom that is secreted from the barb can cause skin necrosis quite rapidly and the pain can last for a long time.
The typical conservative treatment for a stingray injury is to soak the injured limb in hot water. The hotter the water the better but it should not burn the victim. The hot water is used to neutralize the venom and help decrease pain. Sometimes this hot water bath is just not enough to help cure the wound. Subsequent skin infections can pursue and if left untreated the necrosis can spread from the area and cause massive skin destruction and possible blood infection.
Recently I had a young woman in the hospital who was injured by a stingray barb. She went to an urgent care and received some antibiotics. No cleansing of the wound was performed. Subsequently her pain became worse which can be typical of these types of injuries. When the patient presented to the hospital she had redness from the wound on her foot going which extended up the leg. She also had diffuse swelling surrounding the wound. The patient was placed on intravenous antibiotics and also underwent an incision and drainage. The purpose of the procedure was to clean away the necrotic soft tissue, drain any abscess (puss), and also eliminate any remnants of the barb. The wound was then cleaned and flushed with three liters of sterile saline. The patient stated the next day she felt much better and was very relieved. This situation is unfortunately quite common but proper actions must be taken promptly if you suffer from this injury.
If you or a loved one suffer from a marine wild life injury please do not hesitate to seek medical attention immediately. If it involves the foot please see your podiatrist as soon as possible. The podiatrists at Advanced Podiatry have a combine 30+ years of experience in all foot problems and are eager to help remedy your pain. Call (813) 875-0555 today to fix your foot pain.
Written by Dr. Jairo B. Cruz Jr.