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    What causes swelling in the arms?

Posted on Wed, 2 Aug 2017 in Medicines and Side Effects
Question: Bit by an insect in six separate locations. In two locations severe swelling. Particularly upper left back of arm. Entire tricep is red, swollen, warm to the touch and hard. Small rough skin spot at bite location looking like it wants to blister.
Answered by Dr. Panagiotis Zografakis 18 minutes later
Brief Answer:
either erysipelas or local irritation from insect venom

Detailed Answer:

your arm has a clearly demarcated area of redness (and supposedly warmth) which indicates inflammation. Insect venom may cause but erysipelas (an infection of the skin) is a big concern here. If it's an infection then antibiotic treatment is required for at least 10 days. Local irritation (something like a small-scale allergic reaction) requires only antihistamines, painkillers and perhaps corticosteroids.

Fever is a distinguishing feature of erysipelas although it may not be always present. If you've got fever then you'd better talk with a doctor for assessment. Otherwise amoxicillin (500mg three times daily is enough for mild cases of erysipelas) and topical administration of anti-inflammatory drugs (like the ones you're using) should help.

So in conclusion, I believe that the treatment you're receiving sounds appropriate although - having not examined you - I can only express my thoughts; not a complete medical opinion that is.

I hope you find my comments helpful!
Kind regards!
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
Follow up: Dr. Panagiotis Zografakis 11 minutes later
Thank you. I have also taken an antihistamine and my second amoxicillin. The redden area continues to grow, approximately 1/4" in the last hour and slight stiffness in the elbow.

I don't have a fever, or any other breathing/heart issues, no other weakness. I have started having a passing tingling in my left hand as I type.

The same bite on my leg has grown to about four inches in diameter. The two bites on my right arm are redden and warm, but do not have the same hardness.
Answered by Dr. Panagiotis Zografakis 10 minutes later
Brief Answer:
probably the insect venom

Detailed Answer:
You're welcome!

I suppose the bites occurred today? It's normal for the redness to spread during the first hours after the bite. If it occurred earlier (like 2-3 days ago) then this might be a reason for concern.

You talked about your left hand but I've seen your right triceps in the photo. Is your left arm or hand also bitten?

What kind of insect was it? A bee? A wasp? Something else? Did you recognize it?

When the area is swollen it's normal for it to be harder than usual. The hardness can be particularly exaggerated when there's little room for swelling (like when a finger is swollen). The hardness can be less intense even with more swelling in other areas with looser skin.

If the edema continues to grow and there's more pain then it would be better for you to have it checked by your doctor.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
Follow up: Dr. Panagiotis Zografakis 4 minutes later
Picture was taken in the mirror, its my left tricep. I believe it happened about 36 hours ago (Monday night) but did not start getting bad until last night through today. Unfortunately, I have no idea what bit me, I'm thinking a spider -- there is no stinger, so don't believe it was a bee or wasp. I don't live in an area with brown recluse or black widows (live in Montana).

Thank you again.
Answered by Dr. Panagiotis Zografakis 14 minutes later
Brief Answer:
please read the complete answer...

Detailed Answer:
I see...
The black widow usually leaves two marks on the bitten area. So you should be able to recognize it. Besides that so many bites from such a spider would have probably caused much more serious problems.

The brown recluse does not bite unless provoked (like if it was in your shoe and you were trying to put it on) so 6 bites would also be unusual.

Were you bitten in your sleep? An exaggerated response to mosquito bite is also possible if you were scratching it all the time.

I don't have any clue as to what bit you nor can I suggest anything more besides the recommendations on my first answer. If it continues to get worse or if you develop systemic symptoms (like malaise, fever, faintness, etc) then you should visit a doctor again.

Kind Regards!

Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
Answered by
Dr. Panagiotis Zografakis

Internal Medicine Specialist

Practicing since :1999

Answered : 3693 Questions


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