Tetanus often begins with mild spasms in the jaw muscles (lockjaw). The spasms can also affect the chest, neck, back, and abdominal muscles. Back muscle spasms often cause arching, called opisthotonos.
Sometimes the spasms affect muscles that help with breathing, which can lead to breathing problems.
Prolonged muscular action causes sudden, powerful, and painful contractions of muscle groups. This is called tetany. These episodes can cause fractures and muscle tears.
Other symptoms include:
Reddy P, Bleck TP. Clostridium tetani(Tetanus). In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolan R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Orlando, FL: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 244.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011 immunization schedules for children 0 to 18 years of age. October 28, 2010.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended adult immunization schedule United States, 2011 Proposed Revisions, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. October 28, 2010.
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