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Poisonous Lizards - Topic Overview

The Gila monster camera.gif and the Mexican beaded lizard camera.gif 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:

If you think you have been bitten by a poisonous lizard, call911or other emergency services immediately.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 06, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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