Tetanus

 
What is Tetanus ?

Tetanus is a serious bacterial disease that affects your nervous system, leading to painful muscle contractions, particularly of your jaw and neck muscles. Tetanus can interfere with your ability to breathe and, ultimately, threaten your life. It is commonly known as “ Lockjaw”.

There's no cure for tetanus. Treatment focuses on managing complications until the effects of the tetanus toxin resolve. Fatality is highest in individuals who haven't been immunized and in older adults with inadequate immunization.

Where do tetanus bacteria grow in the body?

Contaminated wounds are sites where tetanus bacteria multiply. Deep wounds or those with dead tissue are particularly prone to tetanus infection.
Puncture wounds, such as those caused by nails, splinters, or insect bites, are favorite locations of entry for the bacteria. The bacteria can also be introduced through burns, any break in the skin, and injection-drug sites. Tetanus can also be a hazard to both the mother and newborn child (by means of the uterus after delivery and through the umbilical cord stump).

The potent toxin that is produced when the tetanus bacteria multiply is the major cause of harm from tetanus

Is tetanus contagious?

Tetanus is not contagious. You cannot "catch" tetanus from another infected individual. That means one person cannot be infected by another individual by coming in contact with secretions or other exposures. The bacterial spores must enter a wound to develop into an infection.

Causes

The bacteria that cause tetanus, Clostridium tetani, are found in soil, dust and animal feces. When they enter a deep flesh wound, spores of the bacteria may produce a powerful toxin, tetanospasmin, which actively impairs your motor neurons, nerves that control your muscles. The effect of the toxin on your motor neurons can cause muscle stiffness and spasms — the major signs of tetanus.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of tetanus may appear anytime from a few days to several weeks after tetanus bacteria enter your body through a wound. The average incubation period is seven to eight days.

Common signs and symptoms of tetanus, in order of appearance, are:
- Spasms and stiffness in your jaw muscles
- Stiffness of your neck muscles
- Difficulty swallowing
- Stiffness of your abdominal muscles
- Painful body spasms lasting for several minutes, typically
triggered by minor occurrences, such as a draft, loud
noise, physical touch or light

Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Fever
- Sweating
- Elevated blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate

How is tetanus diagnosed, and what is the prognosis of tetanus?

The diagnosis of tetanus is made clinically, based on a patient's history of exposure such as stepping on a rusty nail in the backyard, and by the symptoms present, such as "lockjaw," difficulty swallowing, fever, and generalized muscle spasms.

Is it possible to prevent tetanus?

Active immunization ("tetanus vaccine") plays an essential role in preventing tetanus. Preventative measures to protect the skin from being penetrated by the tetanus bacteria are also important. For instance, precautions should be taken to avoid stepping on nails by wearing shoes. If a penetrating wound should occur, it should be thoroughly cleansed with soap and water and medical attention should be sought. Finally, passive immunization can be administered in selected cases (with specialized immunoglobulin).

Sources:
- http://www.medicinenet.com/tetanus/article.html
- http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tetanus/
basics/definition/con-20021956
- Pictures: Google Images




Back