Tetanus is a dangerous disease of the nervous system, caused by infection by the bacterial species Clostridium tetani. It is commonly known as “Lockjaw,” by the symptoms it causes. If not given emergency treatment, it could be life-threatening.
The bacterial spores enter the body through a wound and make their way up to the nervous system. The spores germinate into bacteria that produce a toxin called “tetanospasmin” which is responsible for the symptoms produced by the infection. The toxin disrupts the motor neurons that supply innervation to the muscles, which leads to the painful spasms.
The symptoms of tetanus appear within a few days, to a few weeks of contracting the infection. They can be listed as:
- Spasms and stiffness in your jaw muscles (trismus)
- Stiffness of your neck muscles
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Painful body spasms lasting for several minutes, typically triggered by minor occurrences, such as a draft, loud noise, physical touch or light
- Raised blood pressure
There are no specific lab tests to make the diagnosis of tetanus, so the diagnosis is made by the physical signs and symptoms, as well as the history of getting a wound from falling on the road, or dirt. Vaccination history of the patient is also very important.
The treatment of tetanus is useful mainly before the toxin has bonded to the nerves, and it consists of the following measures:
- Ensuring that the wound is cleaned
- Medications (Tetanus antitoxin, Antibiotics, Vaccines, Sedatives)
- Supportive therapy to combat the symptoms, to make sure the patient is at ease.