What is Tetanus?

You’ve probably heard of tetanus, but you likely don’t know anyone who has had it. This is because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that a mere 30 people a year get tetanus, which is because most of the U.S. population has been vaccinated against the disease. The only people who get tetanus in the U.S. are those who haven’t been vaccinated, or those that haven’t stayed up to date on their vaccinations (booster shots last about 10 years). If you haven’t been vaccinated, tetanus can be life-threatening. Learning what tetanus is and how it infects you can help you avoid dealing with this disease.

Residents of Bakersfield, California, who haven’t been vaccinated and think they may have tetanus can get tested and treated by Dr. Yadwinder Kang and the dedicated staff at 1st Choice Urgent Care

What is tetanus?

Also known as lockjaw, tetanus is a bacterial infection that strikes your nervous system, causing painful muscle contractions that often affect your jaw and neck muscles. Once the bacterial toxin that causes tetanus bonds with your nerve endings, it’s impossible to remove. The disease can cause severe muscle spasms, which can lead to breathing problems, pneumonia, abnormal heart rhythm, secondary infections, and brain damage from lack of oxygen.

If you’re suffering from tetanus you’re likely to have stiffness and spasms in your jaw, neck, chest and back. You may also have other common symptoms, like a fast heart rate, fever, sweating, and high blood pressure.

What causes tetanus?

The Clostridium tetani bacteria is the cause of tetanus, and can be found in animal waste, dust, and dirt. You can get infected through your bloodstream as a result of a cut or a deep wound. The bacterial spores go to work on your nervous system and produce toxins that block nerve signals from your spinal cord to your muscles. This causes the spasms and stiffness associated with the condition.

In addition to being infected from cuts and deep wounds, tetanus can also be caused by crush injuries, necrotic (dead) tissue, burns, puncture wounds, animal bites, dental infections, insect bites, and chronic sores and infections.

What treatments are available?

Tetanus is incurable, but treatment for injured areas and medications to fight the bacteria are methods of treatment available depending on the severity of the infection. Cleaning wounds are an effective first line of treatment to prevent the tetanus spores from growing. Tetanus antitoxins are available, but are mainly effective before the toxin bonds with your nerves. Antibiotics fight the bacteria, and magnesium sulfate and beta blockers can regulate involuntary muscles like your heart. 

If you haven’t been infected with tetanus and you haven’t been vaccinated, four kinds of vaccines are available, and any will help you avoid dealing with the complications of this life-threatening disease.

Whether you have tetanus or haven’t been vaccinated against it, there are options available to help you either manage or avoid this condition. If you’re dealing with tetanus, or you haven’t been vaccinated, make an appointment with Dr. Kang and 1st Choice Urgent Care today.

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