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No one knows exactly what causes preeclampsia. It is believed to be a dysfunction in the lining cells of blood cells (endothelial cells).
Since what causes preeclampsia is not known, no effective tests predict when preeclampsia will occur, and no treatments prevent preeclampsia from occurring (or re-occurring).
Some factors are known to increase as woman's risk of developing preeclampsia.
For unknown reasons, African American women in the US are more likely to develop preeclampsia than white women.
Preeclampsia may run in families, although the reason for this is unknown.
Preeclampsia is also associated with problems with the placenta, such as too much placenta, too little placenta, or how the placenta attaches to the wall of the uterus. It also may be associated with a hydatidiform mole, in which there is no normal placenta and no normal baby.
There is nothing that any woman can do to prevent preeclampsia from occurring.
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