Health & Fitness

General Articles

What Are the Biggest Tetanus Symptoms?

What Are the Biggest Tetanus Symptoms?

Strangely, most people have only heard of tetanus from the phrase “tetanus shot,” instead of from understanding what it is, or more about tetanus symptoms. If they were more informed, there would be far more attention given to efforts to prevent contracting the deadly disease, and aggressively combating its spread among the general population. Tetanus is a disease caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria called Clostridium tetani. This toxin can be found in soils heavy in manure or other organic material, particularly in tropical or humid regions of the hemisphere. Once the bacteria enters open wounds or cuts it generates spores, which in turn creates neurotoxins.

The chief tetanus symptoms generated by the neurotoxins include lockjaw and other contraction of the skeletal muscles of the face and upper body. Highly painful spasms become evident, accompanied by the voluntary muscles becoming increasingly rigid. The limbs and trunk follow, along with an arching of the back that is technically called opisthotonos. As the symptoms progress, so generally do the severity of the spasms, especially the masseter muscle contributing to lockjaw. The rigidity continues to the point where the ability of the respiratory muscles to move are compromised or paralyzed, causing death.

Proper vaccination against the disease by way of the famous tetanus shot is advised, as is enhancement of the body’s natural immune system through proper nutrition and the washing of wounds with antibiotics or antiseptic agents. Either approach is strongly encouraged in order to prevent the onset of tetanus symptoms or the worsening of the condition if it occurs. Avoiding rusty nails is helpful, not because rust by itself clauses tetanus, but because the rust can harbor the tetani bacteria whose toxins lead to the disease.

If a person believes they may have encountered a chronic tetanus infection, the primary and most immediate symptom they have to look out for is increasing difficulty in opening the mouth (or trismus) because of the spasming of the mastication muscles. This will be manifested in increasing rigidity if one tries to open the mouth, ultimately leading to clenched teeth where the jaws remain tightly closed. The timeframe for tetanus symptoms such as lockjaw to overtly manifest themselves can be one to three weeks, or sometimes within a few days if the source of a badly or untreated wound is close to, or on the face.

Secondary to lockjaw, patients who also look out for increasing difficulty in swallowing, accompanied by an alteration of their speaking voice. Rigidity or stiffness in the upper body could spread beyond the jaw area to the neck, then subsequently may be felt by a tightness in the chest and abdomen area. On the less common end of the spectrum, the tetanus symptoms might incubate over a much longer timeframe as the build up of tetanus spores develop from minor cuts that are habitually neglected or repeatedly inflicted (perhaps from the use of dirty needles by drug addicts, or from poor hygiene habits).

Read more about tetanus symptoms.