Pregnancy: Preeclampsia and Eclampsia

  • 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.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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What causes preeclampsia and eclampsia?

The exact cause of preeclampsia and eclampsia is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a disorder of the lining of blood vessels. Abnormalities of the placenta have also been described. It likely arises due to a combination of factors, including both genetic and environmental influences. A number of genes have been studied as being potentially involved in preeclampsia, and there is an increased risk for women with affected family members. Nutritional factors, obesity, and the immune system may also play a role in its development although this is not yet fully understood. Some studies of the immune response in preeclampsia have shown problems in the way certain cells of the immune system interact with each other to regulate the immune response.

Who is at risk for preeclampsia and eclampsia?

Different factors can increase a woman's risk for developing preeclampsia and eclampsia. These include:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/12/2015

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