What is tetanus, its types, and its symptoms?

Tetanus vaccine

Tetanus is a nervous affecting disease that is caused by a toxin-producing bacterium. The disease affects the muscles, especially the jaw and the neck. It is also referred to as lockjaw. No cure has been found yet for tetanus. Treatment helps to manage the symptoms and effects until the tetanus toxin resolve. It is a threat to people who are not up to date on their vaccinations and is common in developing countries.


  • Localized tetanus.

This is not a common type that usually results in muscle spasms around the wound. As it is usually a less type of disease it can develop into generalized tetanus.

  • Cephalic tetanus.

This form develops from a head wound. It brings about weakened muscles in the face and spasms of the jaw muscles. It can also develop into generalized tetanus.

Signs and symptoms of tetanus.

A tetanus patient

The average period from infection to the appearance of signs is around 10 days. The incubation period ranges from day three to the twenty-first day. The signs usually begin slowly and then worsen over two weeks. However, they begin at the jaw and progress downward to the body. This is common in generalized tetanus as its signs and symptoms include;

  • Painful and immovable muscles in the jaw.
  • Straining muscles around the lips produces a non-stop smile.
  • Immovable abdominal muscles.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.

Prolonged tetanus usually causes painful seizure-like spasms that last for some minutes. Breathing difficulties may also arise from rigidity in the muscles. Other signs and symptoms that may occur include

  • High blood pressure.

This is also known as hypertension. This condition mainly affects the body’s arteries. This is where the blood force is too high making it difficult for the heart to pump blood.

  • Low blood pressure.

It is also referred to as hypotension. It is a measurement of below 90/60mmHg.

  • Short heart rate.

Normally, the heart rate is at 60 to 100 beats per minute. Any other range is a sign of abnormality.

Causes of tetanus.

Clostridium tetani are the bacterium that causes tetanus. The bacterium mostly survives in soil and animal feces. When the bacteria penetrates a wound the cells are awakened therefore releasing a toxin called tetanospasmin. This toxin destroys the nerves in the body that controls muscles.

Factors that can lead to tetanus infection.

The major risk factor is lack of vaccination or lack of up-to-date 10-year booster shots. Additionally, other factors that can increase the risk include

  • Open cuts or wounds exposure to the soil.
  • Foreign items in the wound such as nails.
  • Infected umbilical cord by a mother to an unborn child.
  • Sharing needles for drug abuse.

In addition prevention of tetanus can be done through full vaccination of both adults and children. Also, a booster shot is recommended once every 10 years for adults.

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