What are the Symptoms of Tabes Dorsalis

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 01, 2011
Quick Bites

  • A piercing lightning-like pain is accompanied with tabes dorsalis.
  • Eye nerves can be deteriorated which may lead to blindness.
  • Degeneration of joints can also take place.
  • The patient may feel a loss of sense of position.


When a person gets syphilis infection and doesn’t get it treated, it could lead to a slowly progressive degeneration of the spinal cord, known as tabes dorsalis.

Tabes is a Latin word, meaning decay. The term was coined in 1836 when it was thought that the wastage of the dorsal or posterior columns of the srinal cord was the reason behind causing this condition. It was later found that it is a part of third phase of syphilis.

Symptoms of Tabes Dorsalis

Tabes dorsalis is marked by piercing lightning-like pain, wobbliness, deterioration of the nerves to the eyes, which can lead to blindness, urinary incontinence, loss of the sense of position, and degeneration of the joints.

Symptoms of Tabes Dorsalis

Symptoms of tabes dorsalis may not show up even decades after the person has developed the disorder. And when they do, they can come in the form of:

  • weakness,
  • diminished reflexes,
  • paresthesias (shooting and burning pains, pricking sensations, and formication),
  • hypoesthesias (abnormally diminished cutaneous, especially tactile, sensory modalities),
  • tabetic gait (locomotor ataxia),
  • progressive degeneration of the joints,
  • loss of coordination,
  • episodes of intense pain and disturbed sensation (including glossodynia),
  • personality changes,
  • urinary incontinence,
  • dementia, deafness,
  • visual impairment,
  • positive Romberg's test,
  • and impaired response to light (Argyll Robertson pupil).

A transient neuralgic paroxysmal pain affecting the eyes and the ophthalmic areas can come out as a complication of tabes dorsalis.

If tabes dorsalis isn’t treated on time or is left untreated, it can lead to paralysis, dementia, and blindness. If nerve damage happens during the disorder, it cannot be reversed with any treatment.

Image Courtesy: Getty

Read more articles on Tabes Dorsalis.


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