Tetanus, also called trismus, is a serious infection related to the nervous system. It is caused due to toxin-producing bacteria called Clostridium tetani. Breathing problems and muscle spasms are caused by this condition, particularly in the neck and jaw muscles. It is also known as Lockjaw.

Tetanus is a life-threatening disease and it is considered to be a risk for all wounds except small, clean cuts.


Symptoms of Tetanus

The average interval between wound infection and the onset of symptoms is ten days. The incubation phase might be anywhere between three and twenty-one days.

Generalized tetanus is one of the most prevalent kinds of tetanus. In the time period of 14 days, signs and symptoms steadily worsen. They normally affect the jaw and slowly move down in the body.

The following are signs and symptoms of tetanus disease:

  • Muscle stiff and spasms, immobile muscles in the jaw.
  • Muscle tension around your lips, sometimes resulting in a constant grin.
  • Muscle spasms and tightness in the neck.
  • Rigid abdominal muscles
  • Swallowing difficulties

Tetanus infection progresses to cause severe, seizure-like spasms that continue for many minutes (generalized spasms). The back and neck usually arch, the knees stiffen, the arms are brought up to the body, and the fists are clenched. Breathing issues may result from muscle tightness in the neck and abdomen.

Other symptoms that may appear as the disease advances include:

Types of Tetanus:

Generalized tetanus

It is a very common type of tetanus commonly seen in many patients. It affects all skeletal muscles and the infection mainly shows with a descending pattern. The first symptom is lockjaw or trismus, followed by neck stiffness, rigid abdominal muscles and difficulty in swallowing.

Localized Tetanus

This rare variant of tetanus causes muscle pains near the site of a wound. While it is typically a milder form of the disease, it can proceed to widespread tetanus.

Cephalic Tetanus

This uncommon form of tetanus is caused by a head wound. It causes facial muscle weakness and spasms of the jaw muscles. It can potentially lead to widespread tetanus.

Neonatal tetanus

It is similar to generalized tetanus but affects infants younger than one month old (neonates). Neonatal tetanus is observed in infants born without having passive protective immunity, as the mother is not immune.

When to see a doctor?

Tetanus is a potentially fatal disease. Seek emergency medical attention if you have tetanus symptoms.

If you have a simple, clean wound and have had a tetanus vaccine within the last 10 years, you can treat it at home. Seek medical attention in the following situations:

  • You haven't received a tetanus injection in ten years.
  • Not sure when the last tetanus vaccination was taken.
  • A deep puncture wound, an object in the wound, an animal bite, or a severe cut.

If your wound is contaminated with dirt, soil, excrement, rust, or saliva, or if you have any doubts about whether you cleaned the wound well after such exposure, consult a doctor. If it has been five years or more since the last tetanus shot, contaminated wounds require a vaccination booster.

Get treatment for Tetanus disease from top doctors at Medicover Hospitals.

Causes of Tetanus

Clostridium tetani is the name of the bacteria that causes tetanus. The bacterium can live in soil and animal excrement in a latent form. It's basically shut down until it finds a place to thrive. When dormant bacteria enter a wound, which promotes growth, the cells become "awakened." They produce a poison called tetanospasmin as they grow and divide. The poison damages the nerves that control the body muscles.

Risk Factors of Tetanus

The most dangerous risk factor for tetanus infection is not being vaccinated or failing to receive ten-year booster doses. Other factors that increases the likelihood of tetanus infection include:

  • Cuts or sores that have been exposed to soil or manure.
  • A foreign body, such as a nail or splinter, in a wound.
  • A medical history of immune-suppressing disorders.
  • Diabetes patients with infected skin lesions.
  • When a mother is not properly immunized, or her umbilical cord becomes infected.
  • Unsanitary and shared needles for illegal drug use.


Tetanus infection can lead to the following complications:

Breathing difficulties

If a part of a deep vein clot gets displaced from its position, it can move and clog an artery in the lungs resulting in further health problems.

A lung artery blockage (pulmonary embolism)

A blood clot from another part of the body can obstruct the main artery of the lung or one of its branches.


A lung infection induced by inadvertently breathing anything into the lungs (aspiration pneumonia) is a possible side effect of widespread spasms.

Bone fractures

Generalized spasms can result in the spine or other bone fractures.


Tetanus is frequently fatal due to a clogged airways during spasms or nerve damage that regulates breathing, heart rate, or other organ functions.


Tetanus vaccine, also called as tetanus toxoid (TT), is mainly a toxoid vaccine used to protect from tetanus infection. Following are the steps for prevention of the disease:

Vaccination of children aged 7 to 18 years

A tetanus booster shot is advised for youngsters aged 11 or 12. If your kid did not have a booster shot at this age, consult with your doctor about other possibilities.

Adults aged 19 and up should get vaccinated

Adults should get a booster shot every ten years. If you were not immunized against tetanus as a kid or are unsure of your immunization status, consult your doctor about getting the Tdap vaccine.

Vaccination when pregnant

Regardless of the mother's immunization schedule, a tetanus booster is suggested during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Other suggestions

Request that your doctor examine your immunization status on a regular basis.

If you are planning overseas travel, make sure you are up to date on your vaccinations.

Diagnosis of Tetanus

Tetanus infection is diagnosed through a physical examination, medical and immunization history, and symptoms such as muscle spasms, rigidity, and discomfort. A laboratory test would most likely be conducted only if your doctor feels that the signs and symptoms are caused by anything else.

Treatment for Tetanus

Tetanus has no known treatment. A tetanus infection necessitates both emergency and long-term supportive care while the disease progresses. Wound care, symptom relief drugs, and supportive care are typically provided in an intensive care unit. The sickness lasts around two weeks, and recovery might take up to a month.

Wound treatment

Cleaning your wound with sterile or clean water and antiseptic solution is necessary to eliminate dirt, debris, or foreign items that may harbour bacteria. Your medical staff will also clean the wound of any dead tissues that could create a breeding ground for bacteria.


  • Toxins that have not harmed nerve tissues are targeted with antitoxin therapy. This treatment, known as passive immunization, involves the administration of a human antibody against the toxin.
  • Sedatives that slow the nervous system's action can assist manage muscle aches.
  • Getting one of the usual tetanus vaccines helps your immune system fight against the toxins.
  • Antibiotics, either orally or intravenously, may aid in the fight against tetanus germs.
  • Other medicines may be used to control involuntary muscle activity, such as heartbeat and breathing. Morphine could be utilized for this as well as sedative.

Dos and Don’ts

Tetanus is a serious infectious disease due to contamination of cuts or wounds from Clostridium tetani bacteria that thrive in the soil. To avoid severity of the infection a person has to take proper treatment and follow a set of do’s and don’ts to manage it and its related symptoms.

Get tetanus injection Forget to inform the doctor about previous serious wounds.
Avoid walking barefootSelf-treat wounds
Clean the wound properly with antiseptic solution or clean water.Keep rusted tools in your house
Change the bandage dressing regularly.Avoid taking tetanus toxoid vaccines.

Follow the above tips and immediately inform the doctor if there are any new infections or pain in the wounds. An early diagnosis and correct wound management can help to prevent tetanus disease.

Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover Hospitals, we have the most experienced team of doctors and medical specialists who are expertise in providing empathetic healthcare services. We are equipped with modern healthcare technologies and equipment to conduct the diagnostic tests required for the treatment of Tetanus. We have an excellent team of doctors who diagnose and treat this condition with utmost precision resulting in successful treatment outcomes.



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