Pre-eclampsia is thought to be caused by mysterious toxins secreted by the placenta acting on the vascular endothelium. If severe, it progresses to fulminant pre-eclampsia, with headaches and visual disturbances.
This is a prelude to eclampsia, an extreme form of pre-eclampsia characterized by seizures or coma in a patient with no previous neurological history. Eclampsia affects less than 1% of all pregnancies.
Eclampsia is a life threatening condition, not only for the developing fetus but for the mother as well.
The only treatment for eclampsia, or advancing pre-eclampsia is delivery, either by induction or Caesarean section. Women can be stabilized temporarily with magnesium sulphate. Delivery as early as 28 weeks is not unknown.