Dr. Lam describes preeclampsia and recounts why some women are more susceptible to this condition.
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Preeclampsia Defined Well preeclampsia is a disease seen only in pregnancy and it’s marked quite simply by elevated blood pressures with the systolic blood pressure, the top number, of at least 140 or greater and/or the bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure go greater than or equal to 90. In addition, a woman should have her urine tested and if she’s losing greater than 300 mg of protein in a 24-hour urine sample that is also considered a diagnostic mark of preeclampsia. The disease itself affects about three to 14% of women worldwide; about five to eight % of women here in the U.S. It is unfortunately the number one reason for maternal death in the world and primarily because when preeclampsia strikes women in third world countries, they don’t have access to good medical care. Luckily here in the United States, it’s a lot different story. With preeclamptics, about 75% in the United States have preeclampsia that makes a doctor worry or makes us sweat, and about 25% is the type that’s severe enough that makes everybody worried. About two percent of women with preeclampsia will have what’s called eclampsia or seize, and about one percent of women in the United States will unfortunately pass away from the disease. Preeclampsia is a disease that actually can strike almost anybody, any woman. However, we do see some predilection amongst certain groups of women to have preeclampsia. And what I mean by that is that women who are most likely to have preeclampsia could be women who are very young when they get pregnant, so in their teens, or on the older side of their fertility, so what we called advanced maternal age, women who are greater than 35. Women who are obese, or have pre-existing diseases such as hypertension or diabetes or kidney disease are also more likely to get preeclampsia. Women who have multiple gestations, so twins and triplets and so forth are also more likely to get preeclampsia and women of certain ethnicities such as African-American women, Latinas, and Native American women are more likely to get the disease as well.
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