Tetanus is a serious, acute condition that is caused by infection with a
bacterium (Clostridium tetani). The bacteria are often found in soil,
dust, and manure. The incubation period is 4 to 21 days.


  • Cephalic tetanus

Primarily affects the muscles of the face only.

  • Generalized tetanus

Affects all skeletal muscles. Most common and most severe form.

  • Local tetanus

Manifests with muscle spasms at or near the wound that has been
infected with the bacteria.

  • Neonatal tetanus

Is identical to generalized tetanus except that it affects neonates
(less than 1 month old) only.

Causes of Tetanus

  • Abrasions and lacerations
  • Animal bites
  • Body piercing and tattoos
  • Burns
  • Circumcision
  • Injury or wound
  • Intravenous drug use
  • Not being immunized against tetanus

Symptoms and signs


  • Drooling
  • Dysphagia
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Muscle rigidity and spasms.
  • Sudden, powerful, and painful contractions of muscle
    groups(tetany). These episodes can cause fractures and
    muscle tears
  • Uncontrolled defecation
  • Urine incontinence

Generalized Tetanus

  • Muscle cramps
  • Opisthotonus
  • Risus sardonicus
  • Sore muscles
  • Spasms of respiratory muscles
  • Spasms of the vocal cords
  • Trismus
  • Weakness
  • Death

Cephalic Tetanus

  • Lockjaw
  • Progresses to generalized tetanus

Localized Tetanus

  • Muscle spasms occur at or near the site of the injury.
  • Progresses to generalized tetanus.

Neonatal Tetanus

  • Irritability
  • Poor sucking ability
  • Dysphagia


Blood test to identify the tetanus bacteria.


  • Medicines
  • Bed rest with a non-stimulating environment
  • Dim light
  • Reduced noise
  • Stable temperature
  • Tetanus immune globulin
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Sedatives
  • Surgery
  • Breathing support with ventilators


  • Acute renal failure
  • Bone fractures
  • Brain damage
  • Dyspnea   
  • Disability
  • Heart failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory failure


  • Tetanus is completely preventable by active tetanus immunization. Immunization is thought to provide protection for 10 years.
  • Older teenagers and adults who have sustained injuries, especially
    puncture-type wounds, should receive booster immunization for
    tetanus if more than 10 years have passed since the last booster.
  • Debridement reduces the risk of developing tetanus.

Leave a Comment