The plasmodia parasite that causes malaria enters the human body through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito, reports Drugs.com. These parasites infect the liver cells and reproduce, causing the cells to burst open, explains WebMD. The parasites then enter the bloodstream, infect and kill red blood cells and move to other uninfected blood cells. The parasites also can make the surfaces of red blood cells stick to other cells, causing blood clotting in blood vessels, says Drugs.com.
Symptoms of malaria may begin in a week after the bite of an infected mosquito, and they include high fever, fatigue, headaches and abdominal discomfort, notes Drugs.com. Delaying treatment can cause severe complications such as brain tissue injury, resulting in unconsciousness, extreme sleepiness and coma. It can also cause low blood sugar, yellow discoloration of the skin, severe anemia and pulmonary edema, a condition characterized by breathing problems due to the accumulation of fluids in the lungs.
Malaria can be a serious condition for young children, people without a spleen, pregnant women and fetuses, states WebMD. Patients should talk to their doctor when traveling to areas where malaria is common to receive prescriptions against malaria parasites, advises Mayo Clinic. Anti-malarial drugs include chloroquine, mefloquine, quinine sulfate and hydroxychloroquine.