Professional Academic Day: Eclampsia

Professional Academic Day: Eclampsia



What is eclampsia? Eclampsia is defined by the occurrence of seizures (grand mal seizure) resulting from hypertensive encephalopathy or unexplained coma during pregnancy or postpartum in a woman with a background of pre-eclampsia. It typically occurs during or after the 20th week of gestation or in the postpartum period.  Eclampsia affects about 1 in every 200 women with pre-eclampsia. Every woman can develop eclampsia even if they don’t have a history of seizures.

The symptoms of eclampsia maybe vary, however the common symptoms of eclampsia are the following :

• Seizures in which each seizure generally lasting 60-75 seconds. Phase 1 lasts 15-20 seconds and begins with facial twitching. The body becomes rigid, leading to generalized muscular contractions. Phase 2 lasts about 60 seconds. The twitches start in the jaw, moves to the muscles of the face and eyelids, and then spreads throughout the body.

• A coma or period of unconsciousness, lasting for a variable period. After the coma phase, the patient may regain some consciousness, and he/she may become combative and very agitated. However, the patient will have no recollection of the seizure.

• Persistent headaches or muscle pain

• Photophobia

• Upper right abdominal pain


We move to the causes of eclampsia, it occurs as a result of placenta dysfunction. Although, the cause of this is not known, some researchers suspect poor nutrition or high body fat can be potential contributors. Other causes maybe due to insufficient blood flow to the uterus, high blood pressure exerting high force which could restrict the blood flow that may damage the arteries and other blood vessels. Also, proteinuria which is due to defective kidneys may also be a key sign to a condition.


Statistically, it is shown that, eclampsia in the absence of hypertension with proteinuria has been demonstrated to occur in 38% of cases reported in the United Kingdom.   While, hypertension with absent proteinuria reported in 16% of cases reviewed in the United States.

Furthermore, the risk factors for eclampsia during pregnancy including that it tend to occur more commonly in first pregnancy, women who have pre-existing vascular diseases (diabetes or nephropathy) or thrombophilic diseases such as the antiphospholipid syndrome.



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