Tetanus is a bacterial disease that can in fact be life threatening. Less than 100 cases of tetanus are reported in the United States annually due to the preventative measures taken via vaccinations. Treatment for tetanus can be erratic and may or may not lead to a cure. The disease is usually brought on by a laceration infected with the bacteria and can cause muscle spasms, stiffness of the jaw muscles or other muscles, create difficulty breathing, and ultimately may cease the heart. The tetanus infection leads to the production of a toxin in the body.
The most obvious symptoms associated with tetanus include stiff muscles, stiff jaw, muscle spasms, usually of the jaw or neck, muscle irritability, and a fever. As an increase in toxins build throughout the body, the symptoms may become more pronounced and the muscle spasms may become quite severe. Stiffness of the neck, difficulty swallowing, irritability, and difficulty breathing may become more prevalent as the disease progresses.
The bacteria which cause tetanus, Clostridium tetani, seep into the skin through a cut or scrape of an infected implement. While it is common knowledge that rusty materials which break the skin may be infected with the bacteria that causes tetanus, many objects that appear clean may still be contaminated. The toxin the body releases in response to the infection of bacteria attacks the central nervous system and creates the symptoms which are anywhere from mild to extreme.
A physical examination is necessary in determining the presence of a tetanus infection. Especially when easily associated with a cut, tetanus is not hard to determine based on patient complaints. Patients who have experienced a cut and present with muscle spasms and a stiff jaw can easily be diagnosed with tetanus. In the event of doubt, a blood test can show the bacteria and the toxin in the body.
Treatment usually involves an antitoxin created for tetanus. Some treatments are very successful while other patients lose their lives to the effects of tetanus. The antitoxin is only effective on toxins that have yet to reach the nervous system. In many cases, by the time a patients has developed symptoms serious enough to seek medical advice, the toxins have already reached the central nervous system.
The treatment of tetanus is a long process that usually takes place in a long term care facility. Patients with tetanus may require chronic muscle relaxants to help regain some stability over the spasming muscles as well as assisted breathing via a ventilator. Muscle spasms can become so severe that they cut off the airway long enough to cause brain damage. In other cases, patients who have undergone treatment recover fully. Some patients never recover from tetanus. There is no determining factor that can pinpoint why some patients are able to recover while other patients experience symptoms which lead to death.
Image: Bacterial infection
Preventing tetanus is much more effective than trying to treat it. Babies and young children are routinely vaccinated against tetanus, and adults should be throughout their lifetime. However, it is not uncommon for adults to do a poor job in maintaining their medical care unless there is a problem and thus miss their scheduled vaccinations for tetanus.
Babies are vaccinated against tetanus from the time they are two months old until they reach the age of 6 or 7, sometimes as late as age 10. Thereafter adults should receive their tetanus vaccination every ten years.
In the event of a wound, it should be kept clean and treated for bacteria to prevent infection. Animal bites, dirty or unsanitary cuts, and deep cuts may increase the risk of a tetanus infection. Patients who receive a significant wound and are not clear on their vaccination history should seek out medical care just in case not doing so might lead to a tetanus infection.
TETANUS SIDE EFFECTS
Tetanus can be very serious or fatal. Because it is so rare, patients rarely give it the attention of thought it requires to stay immune. Just because a patient has experienced and survived tetanus infection does not mean that they are suddenly immune to another tetanus infection. Prevention and sufficient wound care can prevent future occurrences of infection. The use of antibiotics, clean dressing, and significant wound care can reduce the chance of a tetanus infection.
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