Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a grave infection caused by Clostridium tetani. This bacterium produces a toxin that affects the brain and nervous system, leading to stiffness in the muscles. If Clostridium tetani spores are deposited in a wound, the neurotoxin interferes with nerves that control muscle movement. infection can cause severe muscle spasms, serious breathing difficulties, and can ultimately be fatal. Although tetanus treatment exists, it is not uniformly effective. The best way to protect against tetanus is to take the vaccine.
What is tetanus?
Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection. It is a serious disease caused by a bacterial toxin 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 can threaten your life. The bacteria exist in soil, manure, and other environmental agents. A person who experiences a puncture wound with a contaminated object can develop the infection, which can affect the whole body. It can be fatal.
Common Ways Tetanus Gets Into Your Body
The spores can get into the body through broken skin, usually through injuries from contaminated objects. Tetanus bacteria are more likely to infect certain breaks in the skin. These include:
- Wounds contaminated with dirt, poop (faeces), or spit (saliva)
- Wounds caused by an object puncturing the skin (puncture wounds), like a nail or needle
- Crush injuries
- Injuries with dead tissue
- Other Ways Tetanus Gets Into Your Body
- Tetanus bacteria can also infect the body through breaks in the skin caused by:
- Clean superficial wounds (when only the topmost layer of skin is scraped off)
- Surgical procedures
- Insect bites
- Dental infections
- Compound fractures (a break in the bone where it is exposed)
- Chronic sores and infections
- Intravenous (IV) drug use
- Intramuscular injections (shots given in a muscle)
Tetanus symptoms usually emerge about 7 to 10 days after the initial infection. However, this can vary from 4 days to about 3 weeks, and may, in some cases, may take months. In general, the further the injury site is from the central nervous system, the longer the incubation period. Patients with shorter incubation times tend to have more severe symptoms. Muscle symptoms include spasms and stiffness. Stiffness usually starts with the chewing muscles, hence the name lockjaw. Muscle spasms then spread to the neck and throat, causing difficulties with swallowing. Patients often have spasms in their facial muscles. Breathing difficulties may result from neck and chest muscle stiffness. In some people, abdominal and limb muscles are also affected.
In severe cases, the spine will arch backward as the back muscles become affected. This is more common when children experience a tetanus infection. Most individuals with tetanus will also have the following symptoms:
- bloody stools
- sensitivity to touch
- sore throat
- rapid heartbeat
In order not to bore you with too much information, kindly check back tomorrow for the other part of this article which covers treatment, complications and prevention of tetanus.
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