Lockjaw

Lockjaw injusry

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

The common signs of lockjaw that are seen in the first stages of the disease are - headaches and high muscular stiffness along the jaws. The symptoms then progress to pain in the surrounding regions such as the neck and throat. Difficulty in swallowing food, talking, and other related activities are observed. Muscular spasms, sweating, and high degree fever are also seen.
Yes, if left untreated tetanus infection or lockjaw can be fatal. Studies reveal that the mortality rate associated with lockjaw can be as high as 20%. Since there is complete paralysis of muscles, the person is rendered unable to breathe. Patients of lockjaw often need to be admitted in ICU, where they are kept on a ventilator. The mortality rate of lockjaw is significantly higher for the older population (65+). Lockjaw deaths are largely observed in people who have not received vaccination for the same within the preceding 10 years.
Yes, lockjaw is a treatable disease provided the person has received timely medical care and attention. Since it is a bacterial infection, antibiotic treatment is the first line of treatment. Toxin neutralizers (TIG) and muscle relaxants are also administered to bring down the infection, pain, and muscular stiffness.
It is not possible to unlock locked jaws via physical means and force. And it is highly advised not to do so. The proper way to unlock a locked jaw is to get immediate medical help. The treatment of tetanus which mostly includes antibiotics and painkillers will help the patient get rid of the stiffness and pain in the jaw. With timely help, the condition of lockjaw can be effectively treated or “unlocked”.

What Is Lockjaw?

Sometimes, a person loses the ability to open their mouth fully or move their lower jaw. This restriction in the movement of the jaw can be painful and it is known in common parlance as ‘lockjaw’. The medical term for this condition is ‘trismus’. Understandably, lockjaw can be extremely distressing to the patient. The inability to move their jaw normally means that the patient is unable to chew, swallow or even breathe normally. Most often, this is caused by inflammation affecting the soft tissues of the oral cavity. This may be triggered by a variety of conditions. One of the best-known causes is an illness caused by a bacterial infection and known as tetanus. Tetanus tends to give rise to muscle spasms which can affect the ability of the jaw to move normally.

This condition is also referred to as ‘jaw hypomobility’ which basically means that the range of motion of the jaw is restricted. Sometimes it subsides on its own. Otherwise, it may need to be treated with medication, surgery, physical therapy or a combination of these. In the year 2015, India recorded 2,268 cases of tetanus. This illness is one of the main causes of lockjaw.

 

What Are The Causes Of Lockjaw?

Lockjaw injusryOne of the best-known causes of lockjaw is a disease known as tetanus. In fact, in layman’s terms, the words ‘lockjaw’ and ‘tetanus’ are considered to be synonymous and are used interchangeably. However, this is inaccurate. Lockjaw is merely a symptom of tetanus and can have many other causes as well. While tetanus can be very serious and life-threatening, lockjaw in itself is unlikely to cause severe health problems. In this case, the bacterium responsible for tetanus, Clostridium tetani, produces a toxin that affects the nervous system and causes your muscles to stiffen. As a result, the jaw becomes immobilized. These bacteria are not acquired through contact with an infected individual. Instead, you can acquire them if you have an untreated wound through which bacteria from soil or dust could enter your body.

There are other known causes of lockjaw as well. Often, this is caused by nerve damage or inflammation of the soft tissues in the mouth. Any condition that irritates the tissues in the oral cavity, such as trauma, infection or dental concerns can give rise to inflammation. In fact, surgical trauma is one of the more common causes of lockjaw. Below, you will find a fuller list of potential causes:

  • Tetanus.
  • Neglecting to clean superficial wounds.
  • Leaving deeper wounds untreated.
  • Insect bites.
  • Intravenous drug use.
  • Any condition that disturbs the trigeminal nerve.
  • Autoimmune disorders like systemic lupus erythematosus.
  • Muscle inflammation (myositis).
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder.
  • Trauma to the jaw.
  • Dental infections.
  • Removal of wisdom teeth or tonsils.
  • Head and neck cancer or oral cancer.
  • Taking treatment for cancer. Radiation therapy, in particular, is known to increase the risk of developing lockjaw.
  • Oral surgery.

 

What Happens When A Person Develops Lockjaw?

Lockjaw bacteriaThe following signs are indicative of lockjaw:

  • A sensation of tightness when attempting to open the jaw.
  • Inability to fit three fingers stacked one above the other into the mouth.
  • Pain in the jaw.
  • The jaw may deviate towards one side.
  • In case of infection, there may be a fever.
  • Facial swelling may be present at times.
  • Inability to bite, chew, speak or breathe normally.

 

What Are Some Potential Complications?

Unless it is treated, lockjaw can give rise to a range of other problems that can impair the patient’s quality of life. Here is a brief discussion on the complications that could potentially arise in a patient with lockjaw:

  • Inability to eat and chew normally will call for changes to diet. The patient may be restricted to a fluid and semi-solid diet and this can give rise to nutritional deficiencies unless care is taken to maintain a balanced diet. If lockjaw persists beyond a few weeks, the patient may lose weight.
  • There is a risk of choking.
  • The inability to open the mouth makes it very difficult to maintain oral hygiene. It will certainly not be possible to brush or floss normally. This creates the ideal environment for bacteria to flourish in the mouth, giving rise to tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.
  • Atrophy of muscles of the jaw from prolonged immobilization.

 

How Is Lockjaw Diagnosed And Treated?

Lockjaw treatmentThe combination of symptoms displayed by the patient is sufficient indication of lockjaw. However, the aim of diagnosis is not merely to identify the lockjaw but to identify the condition that is responsible for it.

If signs like fever and facial swelling are present, then this might point to some kind of infectious process.

If the patient has recently undergone a dental procedure or surgery for removal of the tonsils or even received radiation therapy for cancer, then it is quite possible that this may have a bearing on the reduced mobility of the jaw.

The following procedures may be performed:

  • Physical examination of the head, neck and oral cavity. The 3-finger test will also be performed.
  • Medical history. Relevant findings include a history of recent injuries, dental problems, radiation therapy or cancer in the head or neck region.
  • Blood tests.
  • Urine tests.
  • X-rays.

In instances of mild injury or inflammation, the condition may resolve on its own within a matter of a week or two. In case of infection, the patient will be treated with antibiotics. If the patient is indeed suffering from tetanus, he or she will also be administered a dose of tetanus antitoxin along with the antibiotics. Analgesics help to relieve pain. Sometimes, the patient is given a botox injection to help relax the tense muscles. In case an impacted tooth is involved, extraction of the tooth can resolve the problem.

Physical therapy is advised to help the patient regain normal range of mandibular movement and to alleviate pain. Generally, the sooner that the condition improves, the better will be the overall outcome since complications can be avoided that way.

 

Prevention

In order to prevent lockjaw, one should be up-to-date with their tetanus vaccinations. Similarly, take proper care of open wounds and sterilize them properly.

Lockjaw involves stiffening of the jaw to the extent that the patient is unable to open their mouth normally to speak or eat. This can be painful and distressing. Unless it resolves on its own, recovery will have to be aided by means of medication and physical therapy. Often, lockjaw is caused by a life-threatening bacterial infection known as tetanus. Hence, when a patient presents with lockjaw, the first concern of the doctor would find out whether they are actually suffering from tetanus so that treatment can be initiated promptly if they are.

 

Facts

  • The name lockjaw has been derived from the classic symptom of this disease causes spasms in the muscles of the jaws. The word tetanus originates from the Greek word “taut” which means tight or pulled.
  • Lockjaw is more common in regions with a hot and humid climate and soil is rich in organic matter.

Facts

  • The number of worldwide fatalities has decreased from 356,000 to 59,000.
  • Though the name suggests that it affects the muscles of the jaws only, lockjaw can, in fact, cause muscular spasms along chest, neck, and torso areas too.

Facts

  • A rare category of this disease – cephalic tetanus affects the muscles and nerves in the skull region. Such type of tetanus is largely fatal.
  • Since the spores of Clostridium tetani are spread throughout the world, lockjaw is a disease of international concern.

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The common signs of lockjaw that are seen in the first stages of the disease are - headaches and high muscular stiffness along the jaws. The symptoms then progress to pain in the surrounding regions such as the neck and throat. Difficulty in swallowing food, talking, and other related activities are observed. Muscular spasms, sweating, and high degree fever are also seen.
Yes, if left untreated tetanus infection or lockjaw can be fatal. Studies reveal that the mortality rate associated with lockjaw can be as high as 20%. Since there is complete paralysis of muscles, the person is rendered unable to breathe. Patients of lockjaw often need to be admitted in ICU, where they are kept on a ventilator. The mortality rate of lockjaw is significantly higher for the older population (65+). Lockjaw deaths are largely observed in people who have not received vaccination for the same within the preceding 10 years.
Yes, lockjaw is a treatable disease provided the person has received timely medical care and attention. Since it is a bacterial infection, antibiotic treatment is the first line of treatment. Toxin neutralizers (TIG) and muscle relaxants are also administered to bring down the infection, pain, and muscular stiffness.
It is not possible to unlock locked jaws via physical means and force. And it is highly advised not to do so. The proper way to unlock a locked jaw is to get immediate medical help. The treatment of tetanus which mostly includes antibiotics and painkillers will help the patient get rid of the stiffness and pain in the jaw. With timely help, the condition of lockjaw can be effectively treated or “unlocked”.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Take the complete set of shots meant to ensure life-long immunity against tetanus. It comes in 6 doses.
  • Lockjaw can lead to dysphasia (difficulty in swallowing) and troubled breathing. Take help of ventilator during this phase to facilitate normal breathing.
Don'ts
  • Delay lockjaw treatment. The sudden muscular spasms can cause fracture of bones.
  • Avoid getting vaccinated especially after a wound. Vaccination against tetanus is important since the fatality rate of lockjaw in unvaccinated people is higher than in vaccinated individuals.
  • Leave a wound open and unsterilized. Every time you get a wound, cut, or scrape, immediately clean it with sterilized components.

 

 

 

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cystatin C
Cystatin C Test Cystatin C is a specific single-chain protein that is found in body fluids and is a biomarker for…
iron deficiency profile
Iron Deficiency Profile An iron deficiency profile is a battery of blood tests which are performed in order to determine the…
L-theanine attention
L-Theanine: Better sleep, higher focus, and many other benefits Did you know that L-theanine found in green tea can make you sleep better and be focused at…
50 common health conditions
What are the top 50 deadly and widespread diseases? A complete list of the top 50 most common and deadly diseases that plague humanity. Which disease is…
xylitol gum
Xylitol : Is this the right sugar substitute for you? Discovered during World War 2 owing to sugar shortage, xylitol has become a common name in pharamaceutical industry.…
Shilajit: A miracle Himalayan herb for an active and happy life The Himalayas contain more wonders than you thought. Shilajit is a miracle herb that is widely used in…
GM Diet: The fastest way to lose weight or yet another hoax diet? General Motors started this trend of extreme dieting for 7 straight days to ensure its employees were able…
What to eat, what not to eat in the South Beach Diet? The South Beach Diet is one among the most popular weight loss programs that have been the talk…
SIBO Diet: The important dos and don’ts of this gut-healing diet A SIBO diet is a diet that works by eliminating certain sugars from your diet and adding fibers…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
quinoa salad
Quinoa : A prodigious superfood you need to include in your diet today! Quinoa - what is so special about this native South American grain that has taken the world by…
oral hygiene tips
6 shocking consequences of bad oral hygiene (and how to avoid them) Did you know bad breath is not just turning off, but also harms your body in ways you…
Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (G6PD) test Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) is an enzyme that is found in every cell of the body and it plays…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
carbamazepine
Carbamazepine / Tegretol test The carbamazepine is a drug that is used to treat epilepsy and the carbamazepine test is performed to…
cardioliin antibody iga
Cardiolipin Antibody (ACL) – IgA test Cardiolipins are phospholipids that are constituents of the platelets and the cell membranes. The IgA test detects the…
sodium blood test
Blood Sodium Test A blood sodium test measures the amount of sodium (an important electrolyte) in your body. It is also…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
nature health benefits
Green Healing: The amazing health benefits of being in nature You have no idea what sitting in a closed room does to your body and mind.Can a stroll…
fitness routine fun
10 fantastic ways to make your fitness routine more fun! Are you too bored to exercise? Do you avoid gym cause it's too monotonous? Looking for fun and…
glutamine workout
Glutamine: Why is this the right choice for muscle-gain supplement? Glutamine can help you gain muscles and build higher immunity. Read more to find out how you can…
gout diet purines
Gout Diet : Get relief from painful joints by eating these foods Are you a victim of this painful condition? Are medications providing only short relief? Find a list of…
Kava: Is it the healthy substitute for alcohol you have been waiting for? Native to the beautiful South Pacific islands, Kava is a famous beverage rooted in the local culture. It…
Plexus Slim: Is this pink slimming drink the ultimate one-stop fat burner? How effective is Plexus Slim in helping people lose weight? What are its ingredients? Can it be safely…
Krill Oil: Does the solution to human illnesses really lie at the depths of the ocean? The word "krill" means “small fry of fish” in Norwegian. They are usually the primary food source of…