The progression of changes, when taken as a whole, that manifest in the presence of preeclampsia is known as the pathophysiology of preeclampsia. A form of hypertension, preeclampsia is a serious condition that may manifest in women who are at least 20 weeks pregnant. If left untreated, this progressive condition may lead to life-threatening conditions, including placental abruption, eclampsia, and cardiovascular disease. It is important to note that many of the symptoms associated with the early stages of the pathophysiology of preeclampsia mimic those associated with a normal pregnancy, therefore, regular checkups and proactive doctor visits are essential to early detection.
Often detected during the administration of routine testing, the presence of preeclampsia is easily identifiable by its distinct markers, including elevated protein levels. Consistently high blood pressure readings will generally prompt additional testing to further evaluate the individual’s condition. If preeclampsia is suspected, a battery of diagnostic tests, including additional blood tests, ultrasound, and urine analysis, may be administered to confirm a diagnosis.
There is no known cause for the development of preeclampsia. Factors that may contribute to the pathophysiology of preeclampsia onset can include poor diet, compromised immunity, and impaired uterine blood flow. Women with certain risk factors, including obesity and chronic health conditions, are often considered to possess an elevated chance for becoming symptomatic. Multiple pregnancies and a history of preeclampsia also increase a woman’s chance for developing this progressive condition.
A recorded history of a woman’s health prior to becoming pregnant is an important element in determining the presence of early stage preeclampsia. If a woman possessed no history of high blood pressure prior to her pregnancy and suddenly develops hypertension, preeclampsia may be an issue. Preeclampsia’s presentation may vary from mild to severe depending on the type and severity of symptom manifestation.
Early stages of preeclampsia often present with patterned, elevated blood pressure readings that persistently occur over a set period of time, generally within a single week. During the initial stages of the pathophysiology of preeclampsia, a pregnant woman may also develop proteinuria, or elevated levels of protein in her urine. As the condition progresses, the symptomatic individual often develops chronic headaches that progressively worsen, affecting her sight and balance.
Additional signs associated with the progression of the pathophysiology of preeclampsia include abdominal discomfort accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The presence of persistent nausea and vomiting may also contribute to reduced urination. During the latter stages of the condition, prior to the development of eclampsia, the individual may experience sudden pronounced weight gain and swelling.
Preeclampsia management is central to treatment when the condition presents during the early months of pregnancy. In most cases, anti-hypertensive medications are administered to lower and stabilize blood pressure. Magnesium may also be given to prevent the onset of eclampsia-induced seizures. Women who are unable to deliver may be placed on bed rest until they are far enough along in their pregnancy to deliver with little to no risk for complications. When preeclampsia presents in the latter months of pregnancy, labor is induced and an early delivery is performed.