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News2007November › Pre-eclampsia: Scientists discover what it really is › November 2007

Pre-eclampsia: Scientists discover what it really is

Scientists are beginning to suspect that pre-eclampsia - which affects 8 per cent of all pregnant women - is not a cardiovascular problem at all

Scientists are beginning to suspect that pre-eclampsia - which affects 8 per cent of all pregnant women - is not a cardiovascular problem at all. Instead, it is an inflammatory disease.

This ties in with new research which is finding that atherosclerosis - the disease where artery walls narrow and harden - is also an inflammatory problem. This suggests that atherosclerosis and pre-eclampsia are reactions against some other agent.

It's true that pre-eclampsia is associated with heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) and stroke, but these could all be aspects of the effect rather than the cause.

If this hypothesis is true, it means the way we treat pre-eclampsia - and atherosclerosis, come to that - will have to be changed dramatically. It may also mean that the 76,000 lives lost each year to pre-eclampsia could be avoided.

(Source: British Medical Journal, 2007; 335: 1059).

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