Malaria is one of the most common vector-borne diseases. When a mosquito infected with malarial parasite bites you, it injects the parasite in your body. Symptoms of malaria usually appear 10-15 days after the mosquito bite. These symptoms may include high-grade fever with chills, headache, body aches, cough and diarrhea. Severe complications are common especially with Plasmodium faciparum malarial parasite. Malaria if not treated timely can lead to many complications mainly in children, pregnant women and older adults. Almost any system of the body can be affected by malarial parasite.
What happens when a mosquito infects you with Malaria?
When the parasite infects the red blood cells , the cells stick to the walls of blood vessels and as a result the blood supply to vital organs gets compromised.
Malaria can affect brain and can cause swelling in brain leading to coma, convulsions or even death. Malarial parasite can cause destruction of red blood cells and can cause severe anemia.
Patients can also present with blackwater fever which may be accompanied by kidney failure.
Other complications include liver failure leading to jaundice and hypoglycemia ( i.e low blood sugar levels ).
In rare cases patient can present with cardiac complications including heart failure and sometimes acute lung injury (ARDS).
Malaria and its effects on pregnancy :
Pregnant females are a different subset of patients where the complications can be life threatening. The parasitemia is 10 times higher in pregnancy and the malaria tends to be more severe almost doubling the mortality.
In pregnant females there is high incidence of miscarriage, premature babies and still births.
Growth of the baby may stop inside the womb leading to low birth weight of the baby.
In severe cases death of the mother can also occur.
The management of complications may also be difficult due to altered physiology in pregnancy.
Elderly patients are also more vulnerable for malarial complications because of their low immunity.So, it is very important to have early recognition and management of these life threatening complications especially in vulnerable patients. Timely intervention in cases of severe malaria can be life saving .