What is Tetanus?

Tetanus is a bacterial infection also known as lockjaw. It causes stiffness in various muscles present in different parts of the body. It affects the nervous system. The first affected parts are mostly jaw and neck but it may soon cause muscle contractions in other parts of the body. It is a fatal disease of the nervous system caused by nerve toxins released by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. The bacterium is found in the soil and in the faeces and digestive tract of animals. It enters the body through a minor cut or wound when a person comes in contact with the contaminated matter. They produce toxins that interfere with muscle contractions.

Tetanus disease is found in all parts of the world, but it more occurs in the location having hot and wet climates where the soil contains a lot of organic matter.

Causes of Tetanus

Tetanus is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani and is found in the soil, faces and GI tract of animals. They can remain inactive in the soil for very long periods, for even > 40 years. Tetanus is often connected with rust, especially rusty nails.

Spores of bacteria can be found in soil and animal faeces. The spores are reproductive bodies, which infect a person. When these spores enter the body through a minor cut or wound, it becomes active and starts producing toxins. This toxin blocks signals reaching muscles from spinal cord leading to muscle spasms. It can worsen and even result in muscle tearing or cause spine fractures.

The tetanus infection can be caused by

  • Burns
  • Insect bites
  • Animal bites
  • Dental infections
  • Chronic sores and infections
  • Puncture injury from piercings, tattoos or injections
  • Open wounds contaminated with soil, faeces, dirt or saliva

Tetanus Symptoms

Tetanus often starts in the jaw or better known as lockjaw. The spasm can cause stiffness in several muscles of various organs, e.g. facial muscles, neck, back, abdomen, etc. It can lead to breathing complications if muscles taking part in the breathing process are affected by spasm.

Some of the common symptoms are

  • Fever
  • Drooling
  • Irritability
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Excessive Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Hands or feet spasms
  • Uncontrolled urination or defecation

Tetanus Treatment

Treatment for tetanus depends on the severity of the symptoms. However, it is typically treated with a variety of therapies and medications, such as:

  • Cleaning the wound
  • Muscle Relaxers to control muscle spasms
  • Taking antibiotics like penicillin to kill the bacteria
  • Tetanus Immune Globulin (TIG) to neutralize the toxins
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