Generalized tetanus is the most common type of tetanus. The signs and symptoms appear gradually at first, then worsen over the course of two weeks. They usually begin at the jaw and work their way down the body.
Two uncommon types of tetanus are localized tetanus and cephalic tetanus.
Among the generalized tetanus symptoms are:
- Muscle spasms and stiff, immobile muscles in your jaw (muscle rigidity)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Muscle tension around your lips, sometimes resulting in a persistent grin
- Muscle spasms and rigidity in your neck
- Rigid abdominal muscles
Tetanus progresses to cause painful, seizure-like spasms that last for several minutes (generalized spasms). The neck and back usually arch, and the legs stiffen. Some people may have their arms drawn up to the body with their fists clenched. Breathing difficulties may result from muscle rigidity in the neck and abdomen.
Minor events that stimulate the senses can cause severe spasms. These include a loud sound, a physical touch, a draft, or light.
Other tetanus symptoms that may appear include:
- Changes in blood pressure levels (high blood or blow blood)
- Rapid heart rate
- Extreme sweating
It is through these symptoms that doctors can diagnose the infection.