Saturday, August 14, 2010

Preeclampsia or (Toxemia, the old fashioned term)

I just realized I've never posted on preeclampsia which is one of the number reasons why it is important to get prenatal care. The cause of preeclampsia is unknown, yet its damaging effects are well known. Preeclampsia is diagnosed by an elevation of blood pressure and protein in urine. Thus the reason for regular urine samples and blood pressure checks during your prenatal visits. There is no cure for preeclampsia besides delivery, and so the goal of treatment is to hopefully get you to term 37+ weeks gestation and then deliver. However, if it becomes severe and begins to involve other organs such as your liver, then delivery prior to term becomes mandatory. Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia are elevated blood pressure, protein in the urine, abnormal labs typically low platelets, and elevated liver tests, spots in vision and/or blurry vision, headaches unrelieved with medication, and swelling of extremities and face. It is important to note however, that swelling by itself is not diagnositic of preeclampsia as many patients believe. You must have the elevation of blood pressure and protein in urine to truly have preeclampsia. If you believe you may be having these symptoms it is important to see your provider as soon as possible or go to labor and delivery for evaluation. The worst case scenario if this is left untreated is seizures in the mother (eclampsia), stroke, or even death. In the fetus, there is risk of growth restriction, morbidity and mortality associated with preterm delivery, and death as well from vasospasm and constriction of blood flow to the placenta and therefore to the baby. So, moral of the story, be sure to keep your regular prenatal appointments, and pay attention to symptoms that could be worrisome. Hopefully, the majority of you out there will not experience this!

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