A tetanus infection is hard to miss, especially when it has affected the jaw area. It is also known as lockjaw disease because it causes jaw stiffness such that one is unable to move it normally. There are other symptoms which are as a result of a tetanus infection, which help in identifying the disease when you visit a physician. Other than that, doctors perform a physical exam as a diagnostic test for the infection. A tetanus bacterial infection can be fatal, if not treated immediately hence preventive measures have been put into play to manage its effects. This has been implemented by administering a vaccine against tetanus to children below the age of 5 and boosters to older children and adults.
How Do You Test for Tetanus Infection?
Doctors consider a few factors when testing patients for a tetanus infection. They will consider your medical vaccination history, a physical exam and symptoms of tetanus infection. The focus is usually on any muscle spasms, stiffness and pain the patient is feeling in their body. If you haven’t been immunized or your vaccination is long overdue, there is a high risk of a tetanus infection. Once a correct diagnosis has been done, the doctor will proceed to recommend treatment to fight against the bacterium and the overall infection. Treatment is dependent on the extremity of the symptoms and extent of the bacterial infection. Common treatment procedures include antibiotics, muscle relaxers, tetanus immunoglobulin, and wound care. A booster shot may also be given to improve one’s immunity against the tetanus bacterium.
A tetanus infection is rare in individuals who’ve been vaccinated or have had vaccination shots in the required time. Most cases of tetanus occur in people who have not been vaccinated or have not been given a booster in over a ten-year period. Tetanus is caused by a bacteria known as Clostridium tetani which can either manifest in a vegetative or spore state. In a vegetative state, the bacteria causes the tetanus infection, it is sensitive to heat and dies if exposed to oxygen. On the other hand, in a spore state, the bacterium is harder to kill and only cause tetanus if they rest on a favorable anaerobic environment. Tetanus causing bacteria strive in an environment where there is injured tissue around a burn or wound.
Tetanus is not contagious and you can only contract it if you have a cut, burn or a puncture wound. The bacterium only enters the body from any sites which have the aforementioned traits. You can also get tetanus from animal bites, non-sterile injections or body piercings, or splits in the skin. Once the bacteria is in the body, it multiplies and releases toxins which affect the nervous system. This leads to muscle stiffness and spasms in affected areas.
How Does The Tetanus Toxin Affect The Body?
The major effect of the presence of tetanus toxin in the body is muscle stiffness. This is because the toxin interferes with the interaction between nerves and related muscles. The toxin increases the chemical signal to the muscle from the nerve resulting in muscle spasms and tightening. You can experience muscle spasm around the jaw, neck, and face as well as other parts of your body. When the muscle stiffness is around the neck, one can experience difficulties in breathing and swallowing. In worst case scenarios, the tightening of the muscles can lead to suffocation and death thereafter. Adding to that, one can also suffer from a high fever, sweating and an increased heartbeat.
A tetanus infection is tested through a physical exam and examining the symptoms of the infection. In addition to that, one’s immunization and medical background are considered to further enhance the doctor’s knowledge on your tetanus history. Patients who have never been vaccinated or have taken more than 10 years to get a tetanus boost are at a higher risk of an infection. If you’ve just recovered from a tetanus infection, then you should make sure to get a tetanus shot to prevent a recurrence.
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