Preeclampsia Prevention May Be on the Way

Julie Ryan Evans

pregnant bellyThere's no good news when it comes to preeclampsia and its deadly and devastating effects, but a recent study that could lead to its early detection is encouraging.

An international team of scientists and doctors were able to identify 14 new markers that could be detected in early pregnancy indicating a high risk of developing preeclampsia.

They believe a simple blood test to detect the disease may be ready in four to five years.

Ever since I was struck by the disease -- in my 26th week of pregnancy -- I have followed the research and studies about it closely. Every piece helps, but this is by far the best and most encouraging news I've seen to really make an impact in combating it.

While it's not a cure, it's a huge step because currently no one has any idea who will get the disease and who won't. There are some risk factors, like being overweight, having some pre-existing conditions like chronic high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease, or being over 40 or under 18 at the time of delivery.

But many women, like myself, had none of the risks factors, but were hit by the disease anyway ... out of the blue.

So much could be done if doctors and women were aware of the heightened risk, in terms of managing or even preventing the disease from developing. The signs, researchers say, are there, but no one has just known what to look for, until now.

"Everything we know about this condition suggests women do not become sick and present with preeclampsia until late in pregnancy, but the condition originates in early pregnancy," said Louise C. Kenny,  the study's lead. "To develop effective treatment and prevention strategies -- our ultimate goal -- we need to be able to start treatment in early pregnancy. We need to be able to tell who is at risk and who is not."

While preeclampsia is individually devastating, it's a huge worldwide problem with exorbitant costs, so the results of this study could make an enormous impact.

Currently, between 100,000-200,000 women die each year from preeclampsia and it affects up to 10 percent of pregnancies. Statistics are a little better in the United States, but still show a significant problem.

Let's hope true good news about this disease -- that we wipe it out completely -- is in our near future.

Have you or anyone you know developed preeclampsia in pregnancy?


Image via dizznbonn/Flickr

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