Preeclampsia or HELLP syndrome?
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Preeclampsia is a condition which can develop in pregnancy, usually after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The causes of preeclampsia are not known. It is thought that it may be related to how the blood vessels develop in the placenta during pregnancy. There may also be a genetic component involved. Often times the pregnant woman may be unaware of this developing condition until it is picked up by her health care provider during routine prenatal visits.
The typical signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- high blood pressure;
- protein in urine;
- neck or shoulder pain;
- changes to vision or light sensitivity;
- difficulty breathing; and
- severe swelling in hands and feet.
When a pregnancy is affected by preeclampsia, the unborn baby may not receive enough oxygen and glucose through the placenta and may not grow as expected. This can be seen on ultrasound scans performed during pregnancy.
HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening liver disorder thought to be related to severe preeclampsia. Severe preeclampsia can affect the way the blood clots, causing a breakdown of the oxygen carrying cells in the blood and injury to the liver. HELLP syndrome can occur silently, meaning without the pregnant woman being aware of it. It is therefore important to attend regular prenatal visits with your health care provider to ensure your pregnancy is progressing normally, and any potential signs and symptoms are picked up early.
Typical signs and symptoms of HELLP syndrome, in addition to the above, include:
- abdominal pain (especially on the right side);
- fatigue; and
- general feeling of being unwell.
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