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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Tetanus: Causes, Types and Symptoms

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Tetanus is an infection that usually affects the central nervous system causing severe and very painful muscular contractions. It is an ancient disease called the Lockjaw disease. It usually affects the muscles and nerves by sending severe painful spasms through the nerves into the muscles.

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Tetanus occurs when a bacteria called Clostridium tetani mostly found in the soil or on objects enters into the body by piercing through the skin thereby entering into the blood stream. Thereafter going to affect the muscles and the nerves.

Neonatal tetanus occurs when the clostridium tetani affects the central nervous system of a neonate (an infant or new born who is less than a month old). This is a common but yet severe disease that affects a new born mostly thorough the umbilical cord.

It is an acute disease that moves through the umbilical cord through the formation of spores of clostridium tetani. Tetanus has the ability to interfere with a person’s way of life and the person’s everyday life activities likewise the person’s ability to breath. In fact, tetanus has been seen to threaten people’s life if not properly treated and in time too.

A host of spores of bacteria that cause tetanus commonly known as Clostridium tetani are usually found within the soil layers (most especially the top soil), dusts and also seen in animal faeces.

Once this bacteria can enter into the bloodstream though any entrance from the skin surface, the bacteria will go on to release a powerful poison or toxin whose primary purpose is to affect the brain and the nervous system. This will therefore lead to stiffness and hardening of muscles.

In the United States according to a research paper found on Medical News today, it is seen that there are about 30 cases that are presented with this disease every year.

After the initial contact with this infection, the clostridium tetani have generally an incubation period of about 4-7 days.

After 7 days, the symptoms of tetanus will begin to progress. However, in some unusual cases, it can take up to weeks or months before the symptoms of this disease begins to manifest. There are several forms of tetanus and they include:

The General type of tetanus

This is the most common form of tetanus mostly seen among those who present with this disease. The symptoms of this form of tetanus usually presents and starts from the head and goes in a descending form till it gets to the lower limbs.

The very first symptom noticed by the patient is lock jaw I.e. inability to be able to move the jaw muscles appropriately. This is due to the unusual stiffness and hardness found in the muscles of the jaw. After which spasms of the muscles of the face will then begin to occur.

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After this, the person will experience severe muscle hardening and stiffness in the neck and as well experience inability to move the neck either sideways or back and forth.

The person will also experience difficulty in swallowing and then the disease continues to progress downwards but causing muscle stiffness and hardens in the pectoral and deltoid regions, the arm muscles and eventually the calf muscles too will experience stiffness till it gets to the feet.

The person will also notice symptoms such as increase in temperature, nausea, muscle spasms, increase in the rate of blood pressure and also irregularities in heart beats.

Neonatal tetanus

It is also a common form of tetanus only that this time, it is found in neonate or babies. This mostly occur to babies whose mothers weren’t vaccinated. Once mother is vaccinated against this disease, her new offspring will have a high tendency of avoiding this disease.

This is because the baby will acquire passive immunity from his/her mother and hence he or she will be protected.

But if the mother is not vaccinated, the baby is at a higher risk and this is because their immune system is still underdeveloped hence they cannot fight off infection on their own. This infection usually is passed through the umbilical stump that is still yet to heal most especially if the umbilical stump was cut through an infected instrument that isn’t sterilized.

Local tetanus

It is a very rare and uncommon form of this disease. This occurs when the patient experiences and undergo severe muscle contraction and spasms of muscles around the same area at which the person has the injury. Hence, we can say that the infection is localized.

However, the muscle contractions and spasms can relax and stop awhile before it gets to subside. Most times, the percentage chance if one getting tetanus is usually very small but that category can be quite futile though.

Cephalic tetanus

This is by far the rarest case of tetanus that one can find. It is usually the type of tetanus that affects only the muscles and nerves found in the head. Mostly, it occurs if there is trauma or an injury to the head. This may include skull lacerations, eye injuries, dental extraction or maybe skull fractures.

The major complication that occurs in this kind of tetanus is paralysis of the facial nerves hence all the muscles of the face supplied by facial nerve won’t be able to function. Sometimes, it may even decide to spread to other cranial nerves that serves muscles in the face. Cranial nerves such as the vestibulococclear nerve is affected.

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Most times, this disease may progress and spread all through the body and due to the fact, that is very rare, most health practitioners are usually not familiar with its clinical presentations and therefore may not suspect the presence of tetanus not until it is too late to treat or not until the disease reaches a chronic stage.

Though it is very rarely seen, but yet again it is by far the most deadliest type of tetanus that has ever been seen and it has the highest fatality rate seen so far among the other forms of tetanus. There are certain symptoms of this disease that is usually seen and expected in a person who has tetanus and they include:

  1. Severe muscular Contractions and spasms
  2. Severe pains around the body
  3. Severe stiffness in the muscles especially the jaw muscles.
  4. The patient will experience sever difficulty in swallowing
  5. There will be severe contractions and pains in the abdominal muscles
  6. Painful spasms across the muscles of the body for several minutes will be experienced by the patient.
  7. Severe Fever
  8. Increased blood pressure
  9. Increased heart beat (arrhythmia).

If a person has a deep wound gotten from a sharp object or if a person has a wound that seems very dirty and infectious, then the person should go visit a doctor or a physician for a shot of tetanus.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker
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