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Eclampsia (from the Greek for "shining forth") is a life-threatening complication of pregnancy. It is characterized when a mother develops tonic-clonic seizures after suffering the symptoms of preeclampsia - high blood pressure and protein in the urine, where there is no other underlying organic cause for the seizures. The seizures eventually get worse and result in coma and death. It may also present with nausea, vomiting, headache and blindness. As it progresses, it often results in abdominal pain, liver failure and pulmonary edema together with multiple organ failure.
Like preeclampsia, eclampsia is more common in first-time mothers, particularly when the father is of a different blood type. Women are also at higher risk if they have existing diseases of the blood vessels or clotting disorders. There also appears to be a genetic component as it tends to run in families.
The underlying etiology of the disease is still not well understood, but it is known that the presence of the placenta is key in the presentation of symptoms. When the placenta is removed, the disease resolves itself.
Although there are treatments for eclampsia, the most important measure is prevention. All pregnant women should be monitored for preeclampsia and monitored continually during and just after birth to see if the preeclampsia resolves itself. If eclampsia presents prior to birth, labor should be induced or a cesarean section should be performed and efforts should be directed to ensuring the health of the newborn.