What is Tabes Dorsalis

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 01, 2011

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Quick Bites

  • Tabes dorsalis is slow degeneration of the nerve cells and fibres.
  • These nerve cells and fibres carry sensory information to the brain.
  • They are located in the dorsal columns of the spinal cord.
  • Males are at a higher risk of getting tabes dorsalis.



Tabes dorsalis is characterized by a slow degeneration of the nerve cells and nerve fibres that carry sensory information to the brain. These degenerating nerves are located in the dorsal columns of the spinal cord. This portion is closest to the back, of the body.

A person maintains their sense of position through these nerves only. When a syphilis infection is left untreated, it may result into tabes dorsalis. Symptoms of this degenerative disorder may not show until decades after the initial infection.

Symptoms of tabes dorsalis include weakness, diminished reflexes, unsteady gait, progressive degeneration of the joints, loss of coordination, episodes of intense pain and disturbed sensation, personality changes, dementia, deafness, visual impairment, and impaired response to light.

Males are at a higher risk of getting tabes dorsalis than females. Mid-life marks the onset of this disease and because of its co-association with HIV infection, tabes dorsalis incidences are on the rise.

Tabes Dorsalis

Treatment for Tabes Dorsalis

Treatment choice for tabes dorsalis is penicillin, which is administered intravenously. The pain treated with the disearse can be relieved with opiates, valproate, or carbamazepine. Physicall therapy to deal with muscle wasting and weakness may be recommended to patients.

It is important for patients who come in sexual contact with a person suffering syphilis to practice some preventive treatment.

If tabes dorsalis is left untreated, it can lead to paralysis, dementia, and even blindness. If the condition worsens, and excessive nerve damage occurs in the patient, it cannot be reversed.

Image Courtesy: Getty

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