ManipalHospitals • July 26, 20180 Comment

Eclampsia is a severe complication of pregnancy. It is a severe condition where women who are diagnosed with preeclampsia, i.e. high blood pressure and protein in the urine, develop seizures or coma.  In a preeclampsia, due to high blood pressure levels in the mother, the blood supply to the fetus is reduced. This results in the fetus not getting sufficient oxygen and nutrients. Eclampsia is the final stage of preeclampsia and requires immediate medical attention as it can be fatal if left untreated.
There are some conditions associated with eclampsia such as edema (buildup of fluid in different parts of the body such as the tissues and the lungs), headache and gestational diabetes.

Symptoms of Eclampsia
The symptoms of eclampsia include those of preeclampsia and can vary depending on the organs involved. The common signs and symptoms include:
Elevated blood pressure
Loss of consciousness
Muscle pain
Excessive weight gain during pregnancy
Nausea and vomiting
Swelling of the hands, feet and face
Abdominal pain
Blurred vision and seeing spots due to changes in the nervous system
Pain in the upper right abdomen due to adverse changes affecting the liver
Impaired fetal development which can be observed by reduced fetal movement

Causes and risk factors
The factors which increase the risk for preeclampsia are:

  • Age: If the mother is older than 35 years or younger than 20 years

  • Pregnancy history: Most cases of eclampsia occur in the first pregnancies.

  • Diet: Unhealthy dietary habits and malnutrition also increases the risk of eclampsia

  • Health conditions: If the woman is obese or is suffering from diabetes

  • Hydatidiform molar pregnancies: In this condition, the normal placental or fetal tissue may be absent

  • Disorders of placenta: Conditions such as excess or reduced placental mass, abnormal position of the placenta on the uterine wall.


The exact causes of preeclampsia are yet unknown, but some known factors which can cause eclampsia are:

  • High blood pressure: The pressure of the blood against the arteries and blood vessels can damage them, which restricts the blood flow. This can result in a swelling of the blood vessels in the brain and to the baby. This swelling adversely impacts the brain’s ability to function.
    Proteinuria: Due to loss of kidney function, high levels of protein is present in the urine.

    How is Eclampsia diagnosed?
    Doctors diagnose this condition through some tests including:

  • Blood Tests: The doctors measure the count of red blood cells and platelets to assess the kidney and liver function.

  • Creatinine Test: If the kidney is damaged, excess creatinine (waste product created by the muscles) will remain in the blood. However, this isn’t always a sign of eclampsia.

  • Urine Tests: The doctor checks for the presence and quantity of urine in the blood and the excretion rate.

  • Fetal evaluation: The well-being of the baby is checked by monitoring its heart rate and rhythm, and may also include an ultrasound to measure the growth of the baby.

  • Scans: The mother’s head may be scanned using techniques such as CT scan or the MRI to check for any signs of a stroke.

    How is it treated?
    The only treatment for eclampsia is delivery of the baby. The doctor may deliver the baby early depending on the stage of pregnancy. In case of life-threatening symptoms, or if the medications do not work, the early delivery may occur between 32 to 36 weeks of pregnancy.
    Anti-convulsant drugs are a form of medications which are given to prevent seizures. Intravenous magnesium sulphate decreases the chance of recurrent seizures. The medicines for high blood pressure include hydralazine, labetalol and nifedipine.

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