Eclampsia: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

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What Is Eclampsia?

Eclampsia is a severe preeclampsia complication. High blood pressure causes seizures during pregnancy, which is an uncommon but dangerous disorder. Seizures are periods of abnormal brain activity that may result in staring, drowsiness, and convulsions (violent shaking). Eclampsia affects approximately one out of every 200 women who have preeclampsia. Even if one doesn’t have a history of epilepsy, one might develop eclampsia. There are some conditions that can be associated with eclampsia; these conditions can either present themselves as symptoms or stand-alone. Let’s take a look.

Symptoms Associated with Eclampsia


Edema is the swelling of tissues, caused by the accumulation of fluid in the tissues. Swelling in the extremities is the most common symptom.

Pulmonary Edema

This causes a similar fluid buildup in the lungs, which can make breathing difficult.


Eclampsia-related elevated blood pressure may be the cause of headaches.

Gestational Diabetes

This is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy and may cause the baby to gain too much weight.

Symptoms of Eclampsia

Vinegar: Types and BenefitsYou may experience signs of preeclampsia and eclampsia because preeclampsia may lead to eclampsia. Any of the symptoms, however, may be caused by other conditions like kidney failure or diabetes. It’s important to inform your doctor of any medical problems you have so that they can rule out other possibilities.

Symptoms of Preeclampsia

  • Headaches
  • Swollen face or hands
  • High blood pressure
  • Excess weight gain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vision issues, including periods of vision loss or distorted vision
  • Abdominal pain when urinating, particularly in the right upper abdomen

Patients with eclampsia may experience the same symptoms like those mentioned above, or they may have no symptoms at all before the onset of the condition. These are the most common symptoms of eclampsia:

  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Causes of Eclampsia

Eclampsia often accompanies preeclampsia, a condition marked by elevated blood pressure during pregnancy and, in rare cases, after delivery. Other findings, such as protein in the urine, may also be present. Medical experts aren’t certain of the causes of preeclampsia, however, there are indications that it is caused by irregular placental structure and function.


Kidney function is usually affected by preeclampsia. Proteinuria or protein in the urine is a common symptom of the disease. The sufferer’s urine may be checked for protein every time they visit the doctor. In most cases, the kidneys filter waste from your blood and produce urine from it. The kidneys, on the other hand, try to keep nutrients in the blood, such as protein, for redistribution in the body. Protein can leak through the filters in your kidneys, known as glomeruli, and excrete into your urine if they are harmed.

Risk Factors of Eclampsia

You could be at risk for eclampsia if you have or have had preeclampsia. Other factors that increase the risk of eclampsia during pregnancy include:

  • Hypertension caused by pregnancy or chronic hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Pregnancy with twins or triplets
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes or other diseases that affect the blood vessels
  • Being older than 35 years or younger than 20 years
  • African American women are more likely than white women to experience preeclampsia and/or eclampsia for unknown causes
  • Kidney failure

How to Diagnose Eclampsia

If you have already been diagnosed with preeclampsia or have a history of it, the doctor will prescribe tests to see if it happened again or worsened. If you don’t have preeclampsia, the doctor will order tests for it and other conditions to figure out why you are having seizures. Let’s discuss some of these assessments.

Blood Tests

medical testTo determine your condition, your doctor can order a variety of blood tests. A full blood count, which determines the number of red blood cells in your blood, and a platelet count which determines how well your blood clots, are two of these tests. Blood tests can also be used to assess the function of the kidneys and liver.

Urine Tests

Your doctor may prescribe urine tests to determine the presence of protein and the rate at which it is excreted.

Creatinine Test

Muscles produce creatinine which is a waste product. The majority of the creatinine in your blood should be filtered by your kidneys, but if the glomeruli are impaired, excess creatinine will remain in the blood. It is possible that having too much creatinine in your blood indicates preeclampsia, but it is not always the case.

When to Seek Medical Care

  • If a pregnant woman has concerns about her or her baby’s health
  • If your blood pressure increases above 160/110 mm Hg when you are pregnant.
  • If a pregnant woman experiences intense pain in the center of her abdomen or on the right side of her abdomen under the rib cage, she should seek medical attention because this could mean liver swelling and potential rupture.
  • If you experience some unusual bruises or bleeding when you are pregnant
  • During pregnancy when there is excessive swelling or weight gain.
  • If there has been a significant reduction in fetal activity
  • During pregnancy, if you notice increased vaginal bleeding or extreme abdominal cramping
  • If a pregnant woman is experiencing serious or recurrent headaches or other visual disturbances such as double vision or seeing spots. (This could be a harbinger of impending eclampsia)

How to Treat Eclampsia

The recommended treatment for preeclampsia and eclampsia is to deliver your baby and placenta. When recommending a delivery date, your doctor will take into account the severity of the disease, as well as the maturity of your infant.
If you have mild preeclampsia, your doctor can control your condition and treat you with medication to keep it from progressing to eclampsia. Medications and monitoring will keep the blood pressure in a healthy range until the baby is ready to be born.
Your doctor can deliver your baby early if you develop serious preeclampsia or eclampsia. The severity of your condition and how far along you are in your pregnancy will determine your treatment plan. You will need to stay in the hospital for observation before your baby is born.

Medications for Eclampsia

Anticonvulsants medications that are used to prevent seizures may be needed. If you have high blood pressure, you may need medications to reduce it. Also, steroids may be given to help your baby’s lungs develop before birth.

Complications of Eclampsia

If eclampsia is left untreated, it can lead to:

  • Restriction of intrauterine development (IUGR)
  • Prematurity; a condition in which an infant is born too soon
  • Respiratory distress syndrome in infants
  • Fetal death in the womb
  • Abruption of the placenta

It can also lead to the following maternal complications:

  • HELLP syndrome
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC)
  • Acute kidney Injury
  • Respiratory distress syndrome in adults
  • Cerebrovascular hemorrhage
  • CNS damage that is permanent.
  • Death

Now that you Know…

After your baby is born, your symptoms will likely go away in a few days or weeks, however, you will have a higher risk of blood pressure problems during your next pregnancy and probably later in life. It is important to have postpartum blood pressure tests and examinations to ensure the disease is gone. You may also experience a medical condition such as placental abruption if complications arise during pregnancy. The placenta detaches from the uterus in a condition known as placental abruption. To save the infant, an emergency cesarean delivery is required. The baby may become seriously ill or even die. Complications for the mother may be serious, with the possibility of death. Having proper medical treatment for preeclampsia, on the other hand, can prevent the disease from progressing to a more serious form, such as eclampsia. Prenatal appointments to have your blood pressure, blood and urine checked are recommended by your doctor. Also, ensure to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss any symptoms you are experiencing.