HELLP syndrome is a serious complication seen in pregnant women. Read on to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of the same.
The word ‘HELLP’ is an initialism for Hemolysis, Elevated liver enzymes and Low Platelet count. HELLP syndrome was first diagnosed by Dr. Louis Weinstein in the year 1982. It is a life-threatening complication in pregnant women, that is considered to be a variation of pre-eclampsia. This complication generally arises during the later stages of pregnancy, i.e., around the third trimester or even immediately after childbirth.
There is no known cause of this life-threatening complication. Some people claim that women who have a family history of HELLP syndrome may be more susceptible to it. Furthermore, women who have had a previous pregnancy wherein they suffered from such a syndrome, may be more likely to suffer from it in their next pregnancy as well. Women who also had pre-eclampsia during pregnancy also have a tendency to suffer from this complication. Also, women who experience late pregnancies, who are obese, and who also have blood pressure problems, are likely to suffer from this syndrome during pregnancy. In general, most of the effects are due to an aftermath of the activation of the coagulation cascade in the body.
Often women who suffer from this syndrome have gestational hypertension, i.e., high blood pressure. They may also be suspected of developing pre-eclampsia. Thus, the syndrome has an onset with headaches, malaise, blurry vision, nausea and vomiting, pain around the upper abdomen, excessive weakness, etc. The excessive weakness and pallor is usually due to the hemolytic anemia. There may also be paresthesia and edema present. The hypertension, though diagnostic in nature, may be mild. If the high blood pressure is severe, then it may even lead to rupture of blood vessels, due to which there may be a hematoma. If there is a seizure or if the patient slips into coma, then it means that the condition has progressed to eclampsia. There may even be disseminated intra-vascular coagulation and if treatment is not meted out in time, there may also be acute renal failure.
The treatment for this dreadful syndrome will depend on many factors, like, the health of the patient, the trimester of the pregnancy, medical history of the patient, severity of symptoms, etc. In most cases, there is a need for hospitalization so as to keep the patient under observation. Although administration of drugs also help, it is not clear as to what drugs can be given at this stage to reverse the symptoms. Mostly, anti-hypertensive medication is given to keep the blood pressure under control. It is said that the administration of magnesium sulfate helps to prevent the occurrence of seizures. If the symptoms are severe to the extent that they put the health of the mother and the baby in danger, then the treatment consists of early delivery of the baby.
This is a serious complication that is seen in around 0.2 to 0.6% of all pregnancies. Many doctors tend to misdiagnose this condition in its early stages, due to which there may be an increase in the chances of liver or renal failure and thus, the overall morbidity rate. Thus, when it comes to HELLP syndrome, early identification of the symptoms helps prevent the chances of life-threatening complications towards the later stages. For this purpose, patient education about the possibilities surrounding this condition are very important so as to prevent the occurrence and worsening of the disease.