The hallmark symptom of eclampsia is seizures, or convulsions. Similar to preeclampsia, other changes and symptoms may be present and vary according to the organ system or systems that are affected. These changes can affect the mother only, baby only, or more commonly affect both mother and baby. Some of these symptoms give the woman warning signs, but most do not.
- The most common symptom and hallmark of preeclampsia is high blood pressure. This may be the first or only symptom.
- Blood pressure may be only minimally elevated initially or can be dangerously high; symptoms may or may not be present. However, the degree of blood pressure elevation varies from woman to woman, and also varies during the development and resolution of the disease process. There are also some women who never have significant blood pressure elevation (including approximately 20% of women with eclampsia).
- A common belief is that the risk of eclampsia rises as blood pressure increases above 160/110 mm Hg.
- The kidneys are unable to efficiently filter the blood (as they normally do). This may cause an increase in protein to be present in the urine. The first sign of excess protein is commonly seen on a urine sample obtained in the doctor's office. Rarely does a woman note any changes or symptoms associated with excess protein in the urine. In extreme cases affecting the kidneys, the amount of urine produced decreases greatly.
- Nervous system changes can include blurred vision, seeing spots, severe headaches, convulsions, and even occasionally blindness. Any of these symptoms require immediate medical attention, preferably at a hospital emergency department that has an associated OB/GYN department because emergent delivery of the baby may be needed.
- Changes that affect the liver can cause pain in the upper part of the abdomen and may be confused with indigestion or gallbladder disease. Other more subtle changes that affect the liver can affect the ability of the platelets to cause blood to clot; these changes may be seen as excessive bruising.
- Changes that can affect the baby can result from problems with blood flow to the placenta and therefore result in the baby not getting proper nutrients. As a result, the baby may not grow properly and may be smaller than expected, or worse the baby will appear sluggish or seem to decrease the frequency and intensity of its movements. A woman should call her doctor immediately if she notices the baby's movements slow down.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/12/2014