What is lockjaw?

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Lockjaw is caused by Tetanus.

Tetanus is an acute, often-fatal disease of the nervous system that is caused by nerve toxins produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. This bacterium is found throughout the world in the soil and in animal and human intestines.

Lock jaw occurs because the tetanus neurotoxin is released which causes muscle spasms. This does not only occur in the jaw but can occur throughout other muscles in the body as well, including muscles responsible for breathing.

This bacteria is found in open wounds such as puncture wounds and even burns. For example, when a person steps on a rusty nail they will often go to the doctor for a tetanus shot. Most children receive tetanus vaccines as infants. Booster shots are needed every ten years.

dano7744's profile pic

dano7744 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Lockjaw is caused from the tetanus toxin Clostridium tetani which produces a neurotoxin that has an affinity for skeletal muscle. This toxin is found almost everywhere in the environment. Frequently it is contracted by cutting the foot when not wearing shoes, it is commonly found in dirt.

The toxin travels throughout the nervous system and binds to muscles but especially the masseter muscles of the jaws. When this happens, the masseters seize and the person is unable to relax them. They are also unable to speak, eat, or open the mouth.

Any traumatic injury to the skin can be a portal of entry for the toxin so the person may need a tetanus shot to prevent lockjaw from occurring. Authorities agree that if you have had a tetanus shot in the last ten years you do not need another. If the person can't remember when the last tetanus was received, they should go ahead and get one.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Lockjaw is one of the names for tetanus which is a serious disease that affects muscles. Among other effects, it causes severe muscle contractions in the jaw, making it difficult for the victims to open their mouth. This effect has given the disease its name.

Tetanus is caused by effect of poisons produced by a germs called clostridium tetani, that thrive in dust and dirt. A person gets infected by these germs through open wounds. In particular, the chances of getting infected with tetanus is higher when the wound is caused by any dirty object such as a nail of a dirty hand tool. The effect of infection may become visible only after a few days or weeks of getting the infection. A person so affected feels depressed, has headaches, fever, pain, and soon has trouble opening the mouth or swallowing. After some time all the body muscles tighten causing spasm. This may interfere with breathing, and if timely treatment is not given the affected person may die of asphyxiation.

To prevent tetanus all wounds should be cleaned thoroughly. Also it is advisable to give anti tetanus injection to persons with any significant injuries or wounds.

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