Lockjaw

Lockjaw injusry

Last Updated August 14th, 2019

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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Top natural diuretics: The instant benefits you can get from nature’s water pills Since diuretic drugs are known to cause side effects, it is better to choose a natural diuretic that…
Vitamin C: The instant health benefits of adding the citrusy goodness to your diet Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that cannot be synthesized in your body and has to be obtained…
Internal bleeding brain
Beware: Ignoring these tell-tale signs of stroke could cost a life The signs and symptoms of a stroke differ depending on which part of the brain has been affected.…
shakeology woman
Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight loss, regulate blood…
reflexology massage
Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…
tonometry
Tonometry Tonometry uses a device called tonometer to measure the pressure inside the eye. This pressure is depends upon…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
smelling-salts-benefits
The actual science behind smelling salts and how it helps in injury recovery Most smelling salts are a mixture of ammonium carbonate and some perfumes which are sniffed by an individual…
stress depressed anxiety
Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling sad? Have you…
tips for perfect sleep
Stop hitting the snooze button: 8 proven steps to perfect sleep Are you tired of not getting enough sleep? All your efforts for a sound sleep going in vain?…
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…
back pain relief
Don’t choose pain: 10 truths about your back ache (and how to get relief) Back pain is one of the most common ailments in the world. Almost 80% of the entire global…
Drinking water benefits
8 reasons why you should grab a bottle of water now! Did you know you don't have to be thirsty for hours to be dehydrated?You could be dehydrated right…
edamame
Edamame: How healthy are these green baby beans? Edamame or "immature" soybeans are soft and easily digestable forms of soybeans that are great as an eveyday…
Cordyceps: How the Caterpillar fungus works as a proven cancer-shield Strange as it may sound, but cordyceps or "caterpillar fungus", a fungus variety native to the Himalayas may…
Vitamin D foods: Know what to eat for stronger bones and a cancer-free body Foods with vitamin D can actuallly transform your health. Observe fewer body aches, high energy, stronger brains, and…
Green, brown, & bitter: The instant advantages of including fenugreek in your diet Did you know the earliest usage of fenugreek can be traced back to the Egyptian civilization? Find out…
The complete “what to eat” guide for gluten intolerance Does eating breads and pastas often makes you nauseous? Gluten intolerance is a common reason why you might…