What is tetanus?

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Tetanus or lockjaw is a severe form of infection brought about by the Clostridium tetani bacteria. This bacterium releases a toxin that affects the brain and nervous system, resulting to rigidity in the muscles.

The bacteria are present in manure, soil and other environmental agents. An individual who sustains a puncture wound with a contaminated object might end up with the infection that can affect the entire body.

What are the indications?

The signs of tetanus typically manifest around 7-10 days after the initial infection. Nevertheless, it varies from 4 days up to 3 weeks and might even take months in some cases.

Generally, the farther the site of injury is from the central nervous system, the longer the incubation period will be. Those who have a shorter incubation period usually have severe symptoms.

Muscle spasms and rigidity where the stiffness starts with the chewing muscles.

The usual signs include:

  • Muscle spasms and rigidity where the stiffness starts with the chewing muscles
  • Muscle spasms in the neck and throat which results to difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Arching backwards of the spine once the back muscles are affected.

Other accompanying symptoms that might be present include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Blood-streaked stools
  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Sore throat
  • Rapid heart rate

Management of tetanus

A wound must be thoroughly cleansed to prevent the infection. If the risk for tetanus is high, a healthcare professional must be consulted right away.

The tetanus immunoglobulin must be given right away even if the individual has been vaccinated. It is injected via a vein and provides brief protection against tetanus.

The doctor will also prescribe penicillin or metronidazole as part of treatment. These antibiotics can prevent the bacteria from multiplying and releasing the neurotoxin responsible for the muscle spasms and rigidity.

For the muscle spasms and rigidity, the doctor will prescribe:

  • Anticonvulsants to relax the muscles to lessen the spasms, anxiety as well as working as a sedative
  • Muscle relaxants work by suppressing the nerve signals from the brain to the spinal cord.
  • Neuromuscular blocking agents works by disrupting the signals from the nerves to the muscle fibers to control the muscle spasms

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