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5 Signs That Could Make You Test for Brain Malaria

brain malaria

Malaria is no joke, killing over 400,000 people across the world in 2018. While most people who get malaria will survive and make a decent recovery, people with the most severe type of malaria, cerebral or brain malaria, are at a higher risk of dying. 

Getting a diagnosis early on can be the difference between life and death, so don’t waste time.

Symptoms of Brain Malaria

If you’re wondering how to spot the signs of malaria, we’re here to help you. Keep reading for five key symptoms of cerebral malaria – it might just save your life.

Severe Headache

So, malaria is a disease caused by a parasite transmitted to humans by mosquitos. The most deadly parasite, P. falciparum, is what causes brain malaria, as it can block blood vessels to your brain and cause swelling. As a result, you’re likely to get an intense headache if you have cerebral malaria.

Low Blood Sugar

The parasites that cause malaria depend on glucose, so the disease can cause hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar as your supply of glucose is lessened due to the parasites in your body.

There are symptoms of low blood sugar to look out for too, so keep a watch for tingling lips, heart palpitations, and feeling tired and hungry, amongst other symptoms.

Convulsions and Seizures

You might not instinctively associate these with malaria, but brain malaria is one of the main causes of seizures in areas where malaria is common. The disease can also cause other neurological conditions such as coma – a result of impaired capillary perfusion, or in layman’s terms, difficulties in blood getting to capillary beds successfully.

Liver and Spleen Issues

The spleen is involved in the immune response to the parasite causing malaria, as an increase in the production of myeloid cells is required, prompting the organ to enlarge. In some cases, a ruptured spleen may occur. 

The parasite may also infect the liver, reproducing rapidly before leaving the organ. Jaundice is a fairly common sign of malaria and is often down to liver dysfunction hemolysis as less blood flows to the liver. 

Hemoglobinuria and Kidney Failure

As well as your liver and spleen, cerebral malaria can have serious effects on your kidneys. Hemoglobinuria – when excess hemoglobin is excreted into your urine, giving it a somewhat purple color – is a symptom of brain malaria.

Other kidney issues can arise due to complications with the liver, the body’s immune response, and red blood cell abnormalities – consider taking a blood test. These issues can then lead to kidney failure.

Getting Checked

Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, these are the main indicators of brain malaria to watch out for. It’s such a deadly disease that you need to know everything to look out for, and be prepared should you ever need to detect malaria in somebody. However, be mindful that there can be many explanations for these symptoms; someone with low blood sugar most likely does not have cerebral malaria, for example.

If you’re looking for more advice on your health, you should check out the rest of our blog!

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