Medical Definition of Neurosyphilis, tabes

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Reviewed on 10/30/2018

Neurosyphilis, tabes: Also known as tabes dorsalis, the slowly progressive degeneration of the spinal cord that occurs in the late (tertiary) phase of syphilis a decade or more after contracting the infection. Among the terrible features are lancinating lightning-like pain, ataxia (wobbliness), deterioration of the nerve to the eye (the optic nerve) leading to blindness, urinary incontinence, loss of the sense of position, and degeneration of the joints (Charcot's joints). Tabes is the Latin word for decay. The term tabes dorsalis was devised in 1836 when the cause of the condition was thought to be wastage of the dorsal (posterior) columns of the spinal cord, well before it was recognized as part of late syphilis.

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Reviewed on 10/30/2018