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Tetanus

Related Terms

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Background

  • Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a serious illness caused by tetanospasmin, a powerful nerve toxin produced by Clostridium tetani. The bacterium Clostridium tetani is an organism capable of living many years in the soil as a spore. Tetanus occurs when a wound becomes contaminated with bacterial spores. Infection follows when spores become active, multiply, and produce a very powerful poison that affects the muscles. Tetanus spores are found throughout the environment, usually in soil, dust, and animal waste (such as manure). Clostridium may enter the body through a deep cut, such as cuts acquired when stepping on a nail, from splinters, insect bites, burns, injection-drug sites, or puncturing the skin with a sharp object. Deep wounds or those with devitalized (dead) tissue are particularly prone to tetanus infection.
  • Tetanus is not transmitted from person to person. An individual usually becomes infected with tetanus when dirt enters a wound or cut.
  • The infection causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to "locking" of the jaw, which makes it impossible to open the mouth or swallow. If this occurs, the individual may suffocate. Due to symptoms, tetanus is frequently a fatal infectious disease.
  • If an individual gets tetanus, there is usually a long course of treatment. Drugs that increase immunity to fight infection, and decrease muscle spasms are used. Tetanus is curable, but depending on the severity and number of symptoms up to 50% of individuals with tetanus may die. The tetanus vaccine is effective, but its protection does not last forever. Adults should get a tetanus shot, or booster, every 10 years.
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Causes

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Risk Factors

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Signs and Symptoms

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Complications

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Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Integrative Therapies

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Prevention

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.