HELLP syndrome

HELLP Syndrome is something few people have heard of since it is fairly rare; however, those that have had to deal with HELLP Syndrome know just how serious it is. HELLP is a very serious complication of hypertension induced by pregnancy. It has a fairly low occurrence rate—only between about two and twelve percent of pregnant women with high blood pressure will develop HELLP Syndrome. However, for this group of women, it can cause some very serious issues.

HELLP Syndrome generally appears before a woman delivers, but it can occur after delivery, too. The acronym HELLP spells out the three main issues involved: H is for Hemolysis, which indicates a break down in red blood cells. Then there are the Elevated Liver (E L) enzymes that indicate damage to some liver cells. Finally, Low Platelets (L P) levels in the blood make it difficult for blood to clot, so it’s harder for the body to control bleeding.

HELLP Syndrome is a major concern for a number of different reasons. High blood pressure, naturally, provides a risk during pregnancy. It leads to poor blood flow to the organs and can result in seizures. Because the red blood cells start to break down, it’s possible that blood clots issues can develop, plus a woman can develop anemia. It’s also possible that a blood clot complication known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC, can develop. DIC can result in major hemorrhaging or severe internal bleeding. It’s also possible for placental abruption, or a sudden and early detachment of the placenta, to occur. Another related issue is the buildup of fluid in the lungs.

Because HELLP depletes the body and leaves it vulnerable to disease and other illnesses in addition to the dangers that HELLP represents, it’s possible that the baby may have to be delivered early in order to save the lives of the baby, the mother, or both. It can then take the mother several days to recover from HELLP.

Unfortunately, doctors have yet to discover the exact cause of HELLP Syndrome. The best they have been able to tell so far is that there are a couple of conditions that may increase the risk of HELLP, including preeclampsia during pregnancy and having a previous pregnancy that included HELLP complications.

HELLP Syndrome can appear in several different ways. While many women experience some of the most common symptoms of HELLP, not all women will experience the same symptoms or will experience them in the same way. These symptoms include stomach pain or pain on the right side of the abdomen. They can also include vomiting, nausea, swelling, headache, higher blood pressure, and protein appearing in the urine. Often, these symptoms look like other things, such as symptoms caused by hypertension. Because of this, it’s important to get a diagnosis from a doctor.

A doctor will do a full physical examination and will need a full medical history to start a HELLP Syndrome diagnosis. He or she may also need to measure your blood pressure, do a red blood cell count, do a liver functions test, check your bilirubin levels, do a platelet count, and test your urine for protein.

Treating HELLP Syndrome can be done in several different ways depending on your pregnancy, how extensive the disease is, and how your overall health is. Often, women will be put on bed rest, may be hospitalized for observation, or may be prescribed anti-hypertension medication. In severe cases, blood transfusions may need to be done, or the fetus may need to be monitored. In other severe cases, the baby may need to be delivered early.

Last updated on Feb 10th, 2010 and filed under Women's Health. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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