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The Common Symptoms, Causes and Treatment of Lockjaw (Tetanus)

Tetanus is characterized by a serious bacterial infection that acts on the nervous system resulting in the tightening of muscles throughout the body. Tetanus is also commonly referred to as lockjaw because it often induces excessive neck and jaw muscle contractions. Tetanus can also spread to other regions of the body and can be a life-threatening disease if it goes untreated. There is no actual lab test to confirm a tetanus diagnosis. Tetanus is diagnosed by a physical examination of symptoms, immunization history, and lab tests to rule out other diseases that cause similar symptoms.

Information. It is critical that an individual with tetanus receives immediate treatment in a hospital. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, between ten and twenty percent of tetanus infections result in fatalities. Today there is a vaccine that is able to prevent tetanus. In order for the vaccine to remain effective, however, booster shots are required every ten years. Tetanus is a rare disease in the United States because of how readily available the tetanus vaccine is. It is more prevalent in regions that do not yet have programs that require immunizations. The factor of having received or not received a vaccination for tetanus within ten years is imperative to the diagnosis of tetanus. Other diseases such as rabies or a viral infection that results in brain swelling, and meningitis or a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord can manifest with similar symptoms as tetanus, so those immunizations will be taken into account as well.

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