6 Symptoms of Tetanus And Effective Treatment

Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection caused due to a bacteria called Clostridium tetani1. Tetanus infection is treatable with the intervention of medical experts. The symptoms of tetanus infection must be addressed immediately, or else it could be fatal.

Tetanus symptoms2 develop when an individual is affected with Clostridium tetani, a bacteria that usually enters the body through contaminated objects. This bacteria can quickly enter your body through any minor or major cuts. If the environment you interact with is contaminated with bacteria, then there is a chance of this being transmitted into your body through:

  1. Wounds that get contaminated with dirt and other substances.
  2. Wounds caused due to contaminated objects.

1. What Does Tetanus Infection Do to Your Body?

Tetanus Infection affects the nervous system of an individual. It leads to painful muscle spasms, specifically in the jaw muscles3 and neck muscles. It is, therefore, also called lockjaw 4due to the reason mentioned above. The bacteria that causes tetanus produces a toxin that causes neck muscle spasms, jaw muscle spasms, or any muscle spasms. These spams are one of the most prominent symptoms of tetanus.

2. Symptoms of Tetanus

2.1 Muscle Spasms

Muscle spasms are one of the most common symptoms of tetanus. They are involuntary muscle tightening or contractions that can be extremely painful. They are also caused due to stress, exercise, or even due to body dehydration. Muscle spasms 5usually occur even in the absence of tetanus. They usually occur in the back, thighs, legs, calves, feet, or even hands. However, in the case of tetanus usually occur in the neck and jaw region.

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Muscle spasms can last anywhere from a few seconds to fifteen minutes. However, severe muscle spasms can last even beyond fifteen minutes. These spasms must be treated immediately. At home, an individual can use a heating pad, warm cloth, or towel to release muscle tension. One could also use cold packs for similar effects. There is no guarantee that there will e an immediate end to the muscle spasms, but it has the potential to make you feel better.

2.2 Abdominal Rigidity

The rigidity of the abdominal muscles is another symptom of tetanus, where your muscles around the belly region become stiff and immovable. This can also be painful.

2.3 Difficulty Breathing

Muscle rigidity around the neck region can make it very difficult for an individual to breathe. The person may feel as though being choked to death. The vocal cords are tightened, and all muscles in the neck are tightened, making it extremely difficult for an individual to breathe during muscle spasms. In case of serious infection, a person may die due to suffocation.

2.4 Difficulty Swallowing

Another prominent symptom of tetanus is difficulty in swallowing. Due to the same reason mentioned above, a person will not be able to dilate and contract the muscles naturally to intake any substance in the body. Hence, it becomes difficult for an individual to swallow due to muscle rigidity.

2.5 Dysfunction of the Nervous System

Bacterial infection can disrupt the normal functioning of the central nervous system. It can also affect the sensory nerves, causing imbalance or disruption in sensation. Upon entry into the body, it travels through the peripheral nervous system6 and finally reaches the central nervous system, disrupting nerve functions and signals.

2.6 Fever

As with any other disease, fever is one of the symptoms of tetanus, indicating that something is not right within the system. In addition to fever, one may experience increased heart rate, blood pressure, or sweating.

3. Types of Tetanus

3.1 Generalized Tetanus

This is the most common form of tetanus. In this condition, muscle spasms occur in almost every body muscle, making it extremely unpredictable and painful. This contracting tetanus condition affects both the central and anterior nervous systems.

3.2 Local Tetanus

This form of tetanus affects only one part of the body. For example, it may affect muscles only in the neck region. This can slowly progress into fully-fledged generalized tetanus if left untreated.

3.3 Cephalic Tetanus

This is the least common tetanus. It affects the cranial nerves and is a form of localized tetanus.

3.4 Neonatal Tetanus

A condition where babies are born with the infection. They usually have a high mortality rate, as newborns do not have a fully developed immune system.

4. Complications Caused by Tetanus

4.1 Broken Bones

Muscle spasms can cause an unusual complication of bone fracture. Specific episodes of muscle contracting can cause displaced shaft fracture. Fractures can be caused by the spinal cord or any other bone in the body. Hence, immediate treatment of the symptoms of tetanus is crucial to avoid complications.

4.2 Pneumonia

Tetanus causes extreme breathing issues. It can increase the risk of developing pneumonia due to the multiple spasms one has had during the disease. One needs to treat and control muscle spasms to avoid these complications immediately.

4.3 Death

As aforementioned, certain symptoms of tetanus can potentially put a person to death. Spams around the neck region are the most prominent reason. Spasms cause immense damage to your nerves, affect your blood pressure and heart rate, and disrupt other body functions, making it hard for an individual. The faster one starts treating it, the higher the chances of reducing these symptoms of tetanus.

5. Risk Factors for Tetanus

If you have not been vaccinated against the bacteria, you have a higher chance of being affected by tetanus bacteria. Furthermore, if you come in contact with unclean places, especially places with animal feces where bacterias usually reside, you have a higher chance of being affected by the bacteria. You also become more vulnerable to tetanus when you already have a history of immuno-suppressant medical conditions.

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Finally, diabetes. It is a well-known fact that wounds usually take longer to heal for those with diabetes. So if a person with diabetes develops tetanus, then the health condition is all the more complicated, making it hard to treat. Hence, be more cautious if you already have a pre-disposed health condition.

Most importantly, you need to be vaccinated. Vaccinate yourself from any combination vaccine as mentioned above to prevent the development of tetanus. Symptoms of tetanus usually start to show up about 6 to 7 days after the first day of infection.

6. Treatment for Tetanus Infection

6.1 Tetanus Vaccine

Tetanus is one of the vaccine-preventable diseases that provides tetanus immunization. Tetanus vaccines, also called tetanus toxoids, are known to prevent tetanus. Four kinds of vaccines are used in the prevention of tetanus. They are, namely, Tetanus and diphtheria (Td Vaccine), Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP Vaccine), Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis(Tdap vaccine), and Diphtheria and tetanus (DT vaccine). Consult your doctor and choose the recommended tetanus vaccinations.

Symptoms of tetanus
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It can be given to children and adults according to their needs. Booster shots can also be taken if and when advised by a medical expert.

Usually, a booster shot is advised for an individual at regular intervals of 10 years. It is essential to analyze your vaccination status regularly to protect yourself from tetanus. Vaccination at the right time during the right intervals can work wonders upon the body, eliminating the chances of being affected and developing the symptoms of tetanus.

When to go for Tetanus vaccination after injury? - Dr. Sanjay Panicker

Centers for disease control and Prevention have also amplified the significance of taking a tetanus vaccine. Take a tetanus shot as your doctor recommends and avoid any tetanus-related issues.

6.2 Medications

As part of every treatment, medications are prescribed by the doctor to treat the symptoms of tetanus here too. Usually, medicines are given to prevent the bacteria from multiplying or spreading to other parts of the body. Medicines such as penicillin, tetracycline, and metronidazole are prescribed to treat the symptoms of tetanus.

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These medications should never be taken without the recommendation of your doctor. Before taking any step towards treatment, always consult your doctor. Constantly communicate the presence of serious health problems or other symptoms you face to your doctor so that proper analysis may be done before deciding on the treatment. Medications often come with side effects; hence if you observe any side effects due to the medications given, then kindly bring it to your doctor’s immediate notice to avoid any further complications of tetanus.

Symptoms of tetanus must be treated at the earliest to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Consult your doctor for tetanus treatment and follow the recommended treatment carefully. Remember that tetanus can be fatal, but quick intervention can treat and help manage the symptoms better.

7. FAQs

7.1 Who Is Susceptible to Getting Tetanus?

Tetanus can affect anyone, but those who are unvaccinated or who have not had a booster dose in the previous ten years are more at risk. Construction workers, farmers, and gardeners, as well as those who work with soil or are at a high risk of cuts or puncture wounds, are also more vulnerable.

7.2 Is Tetanus Fatal?

Tetanus is a dangerous infection that can be fatal, especially if it is not treated right away. Untreated tetanus has a fatality rate of about 50%, but with the right medical attention, that number falls to about 10%.

7.3 Do Animal Bites Carry The Risk of Tetanus Transmission?

Tetanus is brought on by contact with germs found in polluted soil, animal feces, or other substances that enter the body through cuts or wounds. If the wound is not adequately cleaned and treated, animal bites can spread the bacteria to the body and raise the risk of tetanus.

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  1. Chapeton-Montes, Diana, et al. “Tetanus toxin synthesis is under the control of a complex network of regulatory genes in Clostridium tetani.” Toxins 12.5 (2020): 328. ↩︎
  2. Megighian, Aram, et al. “Tetanus and tetanus neurotoxin: From peripheral uptake to central nervous tissue targets.” Journal of neurochemistry 158.6 (2021): 1244-1253. ↩︎
  3. Lukic, Nenad, et al. “Short‐term effects of NTI‐tss and Michigan splint on nocturnal jaw muscle activity: A pilot study.” Clinical and experimental dental research 7.3 (2021): 323-330. ↩︎
  4. Sikha, John Rejinald, et al. “A Clinical Study Comparing Standard Ward’s Incision with Comma-Shaped Incision for Impacted Mandibular Third Molar Removal.” Journal of Advanced Medical and Dental Sciences Research 11.6 (2023): 111-116. ↩︎
  5. Dsouza, Leonna, et al. “Derma roller mediated transdermal delivery of tizanidine invasomes for the management of skeletal muscle spasms.” European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 165 (2021): 105920. ↩︎
  6. Wu, Yeshun, et al. “Nervous system involvement after infection with COVID-19 and other coronaviruses.” Brain, behavior, and immunity 87 (2020): 18-22. ↩︎

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R Shishma Jeevitha

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