During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes rapid and profound hormonal, metabolic, and vascular changes to support the developing fetus. In rare cases, complications arise during this process. One of the most serious complications of pregnancy is preeclampsia, a rapidly progressive multisystem disorder that affects six to seven percent of pregnant women.

Its most telling symptoms are high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine, but it can also cause swelling, headache, nausea, and problems with vision, such as temporary blindness, flashing lights or spots, light sensitivity, and blurry vision. Currently, the only treatment for severe preeclampsia is early delivery of the baby.

One of the most serious complications of pregnancy is preeclampsia, a rapidly progressive multisystem disorder that affects six to seven percent of pregnant women.

Blood vessels in the placenta, the organ that nourishes the fetus, and those in the choroid, the vascular layer lining the back of the eye, are found in very different parts of the body, “but they have remarkably similar characteristics,” says Ophthalmologist Srilaxmi Bearelly, MD. She and OBGYN Researcher and Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine Ron Wapner, MD, are building a unique collaboration on these similarities to investigate the abnormalities in the blood vessels of both the placenta and the eyes in women with preeclampsia. Their goals include developing new techniques to monitor women during the early stages of pregnancy for preeclampsia and learning more about the link between preeclampsia and the risk for health problems later in life, including age-related macular degeneration.

Learn more about this groundbreaking collaboration on page 7 of Connections.