Malaria Home > Malaria Diagnosis

When making a malaria diagnosis, the doctor will usually ask about the patient's medical history, recent travel history, symptoms, and current medications. The doctor will also often perform a physical exam. The test that is typically used to diagnose malaria is called a blood smear. Some medical conditions the healthcare provider will consider before diagnosing malaria include the flu, common cold, meningitis, hepatitis, and yellow fever.

Malaria Diagnosis: An Overview

In order to make a malaria diagnosis, the healthcare provider may ask a number of questions concerning:
 
  • Current symptoms
  • Medical conditions
  • Family medical history
  • Current medications
  • Recent travel history.
     
The healthcare provider will also likely perform a physical exam, looking for signs or symptoms of malaria. He or she may also order certain tests to help in diagnosing malaria or another condition.
 

Tests Used to Make a Malaria Diagnosis

The doctor may suspect malaria based on the patient's symptoms, and the physical findings at examination; however, to make a definitive diagnosis of malaria, laboratory tests must demonstrate the malaria parasites, or their components.
 
The best test available to diagnose malaria is called a blood smear. In this test, malaria parasites can be identified by examining a drop of the patient's blood under the microscope, spread out as a "blood smear" on a microscope slide. Prior to examination, the specimen (blood) is stained to give to the parasites a distinctive appearance.
 
There are other blood tests available that may be used along with a blood smear to confirm a malaria diagnosis.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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