Tetanus diagnosis can be made on the basis a recent injury or wound, symptoms like muscle spasms and muscle stiffness, and a physical examination by a doctor.
As tetanus symptoms do not always show up immediately after the infection has been acquired, in some cases patients are unable to seek a timely consultation for tetanus diagnosis.
Tetanus Diagnosis – The Tests Involved
There are three laboratory tests that can be used for tetanus diagnosis.
- Detection of the tetanus toxin in the blood sample is usually carried out in order to confirm the clinical diagnosis of the disease. But, a negative result does not necessarily indicate the absence of the tetanus infection. This makes its very important to test the sample of any individual suspected with tetanus, before giving him any kind of treatment.
- Isolating the Clostridium tetani bacterium from the infected area of the body is another method for tetanus diagnosis. But, this form of diagnosis is rarely used as it is difficult to isolate the bacteria once it has gained entry into the body. This is because at this point, it is usually rare to see the bacteria on the surface of the skin, as they would have already penetrated deep into areas of the skin where there is no oxygen supply.
- Depending on the clinical symptoms, an observation is made to check for the presence of the antibodies to the tetanus toxic chemical. If these antibodies are detected in the blood sample, tetanus diagnosis is confirmed.
In many cases, routine laboratory blood tests are carried out in order to rule out infections like rabies, meningitis, poisoning by strychnine, and diseases with similar symptoms as tetanus. Based on the diagnosis, the disease can be classified as follows:
Tetanus Diagnosis – Stages Of Severity Of The Disease
Grade 1 (Mild)
The clinical features include mild difficulty in opening and closing the mouth, and swallowing food. Also, the muscles are slightly stiff.
Grade 2 (Moderate)
A patient diagnosed with Grade 2 tetanus shows the same symptoms as seen in Grade 1 tetanus, but to a more severe extent. He also experiences brief muscle spasms and some breathing difficulties.
Grade 3a (Severe)
By this stage, the clinical features progress to severe difficulty in moving the jaw muscles to chew and swallow food, due to the high stiffness of the jaw muscles. There may also be prolonged spasms occurring in the muscles, followed by severe breathing difficulties.
Grade 3b (Very Severe)
When tetanus has progressed as far as the Grade 3b stage, the muscles in the body have been severely affected. The body is bent like a bow and there is severe pain in the muscles. In addition to this, the blood pressure is very high and accompanied by abnormal heartbeats. Blood clots are also formed in the blood vessels of the lungs. About 11% of such severe cases result in death if timely treatment and care is not provided.
Tetanus diagnosis must be done when the earliest signs of the disease become visible. If you have even the mildest difficulty in opening and closing your mouth, and swallowing food, consult a doctor immediately to rule out a tetanus scare.