Tetanus, also called “lock jaw” is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. It is a gram positive, anaerobic bacterium which is present in the soil in the form of spores, which can remain viable to cause an infection for years.
The symptoms of tetanus are caused by the release of a neurotoxin called tetanospasmin. The tetanus infection does not transmit from person to person via contact, but if the person who is attending the patient has an open wound or bruise, they are susceptible to a tetanus infection, as these open wounds act as a portal of entry for the spores and cause infection followed by the symptoms of tetanus.
The symptoms of tetanus, following an infection, mainly involve the striated skeletal muscles, including those of the face and the limbs. The tetanus can be further divided into four types depending upon the symptoms present.
Generalized tetanus is the most frequently occurring type. Its symptoms include spasms of the facial muscles, followed by spasms of the other skeletal muscles. The symptoms of tetanus follow a descending pattern with the spasm starting from the face and traveling to the lower limbs. The first symptom is the inability to open the mouth, or “Lock jaw." There are also spasms of the muscles of the face known as "Sardonicus." Later the spasm may involve the whole body which causes the body to bend like a bow; "Ophisthotonus." Other symptoms include increased sweating, an increase in temperature, difficulty breathing, and difficulty swallowing.
The symptoms of neonatal tetanus are similar to that of generalized tetanus. The infection is acquired through an infected umbilical cord stump or if the mother is not properly immunized against tetanus during pregnancy.
The symptoms of local tetanus include the spasm or contraction of a particular group of muscles where the injury has taken place. Generalized tetanus is often preceded by this type.
The symptoms of Cephalic tetanus involve the cranial nerves of the face. This type is usually followed by an infection of the middle ear or a head injury.
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