Tetanus is a serious illness caused by Clostridium bacteria. The bacteria live in soil, saliva, dust, and manure. The bacteria can enter the body through a deep cut, like those you might get from stepping on a nail, or through a burn.

The infection causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to "locking" of the jaw. This makes it impossible to open your mouth or swallow. Tetanus is a medical emergency. You need to get treatment in a hospital.

A vaccine can prevent tetanus. It is given as a part of routine childhood immunization. Adults should get a tetanus shot, or booster, every 10 years. If you get a bad cut or burn, see your doctor - you may need a booster. Immediate and proper wound care can prevent tetanus infection.

Symptoms of Tetanus

The following features are indicative of Tetanus:
  • spasms and stiffness in your jaw muscles
  • stiffness of your neck muscles
  • difficulty swallowing
  • stiffness of your abdominal muscles
  • painful body spasms
  • fever
  • sweating
  • elevated blood pressure
  • rapid heart rate
It is possible that Tetanus shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Tetanus

The following are the most common causes of Tetanus:
  • Clostridium tetani bacteria

Risk Factors for Tetanus

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Tetanus:
  • puncture wounds
  • failure to get vaccinated against tetanus
  • burns
  • dental infections
  • insect bites
  • infected foot ulcers
  • hypertension

Prevention of Tetanus

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Tetanus. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • get immunized by tetanus vaccine

Occurrence of Tetanus

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Tetanus cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Not common between 50K - 500K cases

Common Age Group

Tetanus can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Tetanus can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Tetanus

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Tetanus:
  • Physical exam: To view the signs and symptoms of muscle spasms, stiffness, pain and diagnose tetanus

Doctor for Diagnosis of Tetanus

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Tetanus:
  • Infectious disease specialist

Complications of Tetanus if untreated

Yes, Tetanus causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Tetanus is left untreated:
  • pulmonary embolism
  • can be fatal
  • broken bones

Procedures for Treatment of Tetanus

The following procedures are used to treat Tetanus:
  • Tracheotomy: To prevent muscle spasm

Self-care for Tetanus

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Tetanus:
  • Apply direct pressure to control bleeding: Helps in preventing tetanus
  • Keep the wound clean: To prevent infections and tetanus
  • Cover the wound: To keep the wound clean and bacteria free

Time for Treatment of Tetanus

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Tetanus to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • In 1 - 3 months

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Tetanus.
Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis Vaccines

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