On the Dangers of Tropical Spiders as a Pet: A Review of Ocular Symptoms Caused by Tarantula Hairs

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  • 1 Department of Ophthalmology, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Tarantulas are large spiders that can defend themselves by shedding urticating hairs (setae). In this paper, we aim to discuss the ocular conditions caused by these setae through a literature review. In total, 25 cases were identified in the PubMed database. Tarantula setae have a barbed structure that enables migration through the globe. They give rise to a spectrum of complaints, causing a granulomatous inflammatory reaction in the compartment they settle. Superficial corneal hairs cause a mild keratitis, while hairs that penetrate Descemet’s membrane can induce an anterior uveitis. Both can be treated with local steroids; when possible, hairs should be debrided. Setae that migrate into the posterior segment can cause a focal vitritis that can be more difficult to treat, sometimes requiring vitrectomy.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Maarten B. Jalink, University Medical Center Utrecht, Department of Ophthalmology, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht, The Netherlands. E-mail: maartenjalink@hotmail.com

Financial support: No funding was required for the realization of this paper. A private donation (€20) was made to the DierenPark Amersfoort Wildlife Fund in exchange for a few setae of their Mexican Redknee tarantula.

Authors’ addresses: Maarten B. Jalink and Robert P. L. Wisse, University Medical Center Utrecht, Department of Ophthalmology, Utrecht, The Netherlands, E-mails: maartenjalink@hotmail.com and r.p.l.wisse@umcutrecht.nl.