Tetanus or lockjaw is a serious infection which can be fatal. It is caused by spores of Clostridium tetani bacteria.
Symptoms of tetanus
Symptoms of tetanus may start as early as four days after contamination of wound to about three weeks later. In general it starts about 10 days after initial infection, but in some cases symptoms may develop after months. According to experts incubation period is longer when the injury site is farther from the central nervous system. Symptoms tend to be more severe in patients with shorter incubation periods.
Muscle spasm and rigidity (muscles become stiff): This is the hallmark feature of tetanus. As the stiffness is first noticeable in the chewing muscles, in most cases the disease is also known as lockjaw. The muscle spasms can aggravate and spread to the neck and throat, causing dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing). Tetanus can be localised or generalised.
Generalised tetanus: Symptoms of generalised tetanus may include any of the following:
Cephalic tetanus: In the cases of cephalic tetanus, there is lockjaw and weakness of at least one other facial muscle. In most cases, muscle spasm progresses and involves other muscles of the body and generalised tetanus will develop.
Localized tetanus: When muscle spasm affects just the muscles near the site of the injury, it is known as localised tetanus. In many cases muscle spasm progresses and involves other muscles of the body and generalised tetanus develop as a result.
Neonatal tetanus: When generalised tetanus affects a newborn infant, it is known as neonatal tetanus. Symptoms of neonatal tetanus include irritability, poor sucking ability, difficulty in feeding, and difficulty in swallowing.
Other symptoms which may be present besides spasm and rigidity of muscle include:
Tetanus is life-threatening if the patient does not receive treatment. According to studies, mortality rates vary from 40% to 78%.