Tabes Dorsalis

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tabes dorsalis

[′tā·bēz dȯr′sal·əs]
A form of parenchymatous neurosyphilis in which there is demyelination and sclerosis of the posterior columns of the spinal cord. Also known as locomotor ataxia.

Tabes Dorsalis


a late form of the syphilitic infection of the nervous system that primarily affects the meninges, the dorsal roots of the spinal nerves, and the posterior columns of the spinal cord. The first symptoms of tabes dorsalis appear from three to 30 years (usually approximately ten years) after infection. The disease is manifested by whooping cough, labored breathing, pupillary changes, and pain and paresthesia (formication, numbness, tingling in the legs, paroxysms of intense pain in the internal organs [tabetic crises]). Disturbances of musculoskeletal sensation in the legs is impaired, resulting in a sharp decrease in muscle tone, the loss of reflexes, and incoordination (specifically, ataxic gait). Also characteristic is tissue malnutrition, which is marked by joint deformities, an increased bone fragility, ulceration of the soles of the feet, loss of hair, and severe emaciation. Infection of the optic nerve with tabes dorsalis may cause vision disturbances and sometimes blindness.