Tetanus is a severe bacterial disease that affects the nervous system resulting into painful muscle contractions in the neck and jaw muscles. Tetanus can interfere with the breathing system and ultimately cause death. Tetanus is also referred to as “lockjaw.” Statistics show that tetanus affects about one million people globally each year with the highest number of incidences being reported in developing countries.
- Antitoxin – This may include the tetanus immune globulin. Antitoxins are administered only when the toxin hasn’t yet bonded to the nerve tissue.
- Antibiotics – These are administered orally or by an injection to help fight the tetanus bacteria.
- Vaccine – Vaccines are given to help prevent future tetanus infections.
- Sedatives – Doctors administer powerful sedatives to help control muscle spasms
- Other drugs – Other medications that may be used to treat tetanus include magnesium sulphate, morphine, and certain beta blockers. These primarily help control involuntary muscle activity such as breathing and the heart rate.
The tetanus sign and symptoms may become noticeable within a few days or weeks after infection. The average incubation period for the tetanus bacterial is seven to eight days. The most prevalent symptoms of tetanus include:
- Stiffness of the neck muscles
- Stiffness accompanied by spasms in the jaw muscles
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Painful body spasms that may last for several minutes. Typically, the spasms are caused by minor occurrences such as loud noise, physical touch or light
- Stiffness of the abdominal muscles
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
Tetanus is caused by bacteria known as Clostridium tetani that are found in soil, animal feces and dust. When the bacteria enter a deep flesh wound, the spores generate a powerful toxin known as tetanospasmin which impairs the motor neurons, the nerves responsible for controlling the muscles. The effects of the toxins on the motor neurons can lead to muscle stiffness and spasms, two of the major signs of tetanus.
The risk factors that can trigger the occurrence of tetanus include:
- Lack of immunization or inadequate immunization
- The presence of other infective bacteria
- Injured tissue
- Foreign body
- Swelling around the injury
Unlike many conditions, tetanus diagnosis does not entail laboratory tests. However, the doctor may still conduct a couple of laboratory tests to help rule out conditions with similar symptoms such as meningitis or rabies. The process diagnosis for tetanus involves:
- Physical examination to establish symptoms such as painful spasms and muscle fitness
- A look into the patient’s immunization history
- Administration of a booster shot if the shot is overdue
- Cleaning of the wound using disinfectants to get rid of bacteria
- Medical examination to find out if the patient has a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or the heart disease
There is no known treatment for Tetanus at the moment. However, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the intensity of the disease such as wound care and use of medications as well as supportive care.
- Wound Care
Cleaning the wound is an integral part of curbing the growth and spread of tetanus spores. Cleaning involves removing the dirt and dead tissue as well foreign deposits from the wound.
- Supportive Therapies
Severe cases of tetanus infections necessitate a long period of treatment often in an intensive care setting. Because the sedatives used to relieve the symptoms of tetanus may cause shallow breathing, the patient may need to use a ventilator temporarily.
- Tetanus Vaccine
One of the most powerful treatments for tetanus, the vaccine, is made of deactivated tetanus vaccine. The vaccine is primarily used to prevent an individual from contracting tetanus.