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 are the symptoms of preeclampsia and eclampsia?

Most women with mild preeclampsia do not have any symptoms. The hallmark signs, as mentioned previously, are the presence of protein in the urine and elevated blood pressure. Swelling of the feet, legs, and hands is also common, but this can occur in normal pregnancy and is not necessarily related to preeclampsia. Women with preeclampsia may experience sudden weight gain over 1 to 2 days.

Other symptoms and signs that can occur with severe preeclampsia include dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, vision changes, changes in reflexes, altered mental state, fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema), and a decrease in urine output. Symptoms of eclampsia include those of preeclampsia along with the development of seizures. When seizures occur, they are most often preceded by neurological symptoms like headache and vision disturbances. Women with severe preeclampsia may have a reduced platelet count (below 100,000).

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia go away within 1 to 6 weeks after delivery of the baby.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/12/2015

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