Infection with one type of malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, may cause severe symptoms as a result of serious organ failures or problems in the blood or metabolism. If the disease is not treated promptly, severe malaria symptoms may include:
- Kidney failure
- Mental confusion
- Severe anemia
- Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema)
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
- Bleeding due to blood clotting problems
Severe malaria occurs most often in people who have no immunity to the disease or whose immunity has decreased. These groups include:
- All residents of areas with low or no malaria transmission
- Young children and pregnant women in areas with high transmission.
In all areas, severe malaria is a medical emergency, and should be treated urgently and aggressively.
Other symptoms that may occur in uncomplicated or severe malaria include:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Troubles with movements (ataxia)
- Speech difficulties
For a pregnant woman, malaria symptoms may lead to:
- Low-birth-weight baby
- Premature delivery
- Delayed growth
These possible malaria symptoms are not sure signs of the disease. A number of other medical conditions may have similar symptoms; however, if you have possible symptoms, you should visit your healthcare provider immediately. Malaria should be considered a potential medical emergency, and should be treated accordingly. Delay in diagnosis and malaria treatment is a leading cause of death in people with the disease in the United States.