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What is Cerebral Malaria & How is it Treated?

What is Cerebral Malaria?

Cerebral Malaria is an acute medical condition that affects the brain and mental state of the infected person. The cause of cerebral malaria is an infection of Plasmodium falciparum virus, which is spread through mosquitoes. The symptoms of cerebral malaria are specific to the condition and can quickly get complicated, which can prove to be fatal in some serious cases. Treatment guidelines of cerebral malaria need to focus on the possible brain damage and the symptoms of cerebral malaria, which include conjugate gaze palsy, nystagmus, seizures, opisthotonus and coma.

In some serious cases of cerebral malaria, ring like lesions are caused in the brain of the infected person and it is accompanied with high fever. There are treatment guidelines for cerebral malaria which need to be followed by the patients suffering such disorder. The patient needs immediate medical care and treatment of cerebral malaria, as the condition can become fatal within 24-72 hours. This disorder is characterized by whitening of retina, which is helpful for the doctors to distinguish it from other type of fevers. Primarily, people residing in malaria endemic regions and young children are at greater risk of cerebral malaria.

What is Cerebral Malaria?

Causes of Cerebral Malaria

The Plasmodium falciparum virus mainly causes cerebral malaria. This type of parasite is transmitted by Anopheles mosquito into the human body. Cerebral malaria can either be serious or uncomplicated and this type of malaria is very common across the world today.

It has been registered that cerebral malaria has the highest mortality rate ranging from 25% to 30%. Non-immune travelers to endemic areas, pregnant women and children living in endemic areas are likely to suffer from cerebral malaria.

The reason why the brain of the infected person is affected in cerebral malaria is yet not clear. It is believed that the plasmodium parasite, which is circulated in the brain vessels of the infected person hinders the glucose perfusion and adequate supply of oxygen to the brain tissue. Both these things are required for the brain to function well.

Some of the reasons that cause cerebral malaria include intracranial hypertension, hypoglycemia, severe anemia and compromised blood flow.

Long Term Effect of Cerebral Malaria

If medical attention is not received in time or if symptoms of cerebral malaria are not identified, it can lead to long term effects of cerebral malaria. Some of the long term effects of cerebral malaria include:

Cerebral malaria can present in different ways in different people and some common manifestations seen in adults and children. These may include coma, generalized convulsions and impaired consciousness with non-specific fever.

Treatment guidelines for cerebral malaria focus on early detection and timely intervention. If anyone in your family is suffering from high fever and refusing to drink and eat, then a malaria test may be required.

Symptoms of Cerebral Malaria

Since it is a fatal disease, it is necessary to identity the symptoms of cerebral malaria early. If Cerebral Malaria is kept untreated and it progresses, it may lead to death within 24-72 hours. Some of the common symptoms of cerebral malaria include

In the progressed state, symptoms of cerebral malaria, may include:

  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • High fever without any causes
  • Convulsions
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Alteration in neurological behavioral pattern
  • Coma.

The symptoms of cerebral malaria basically go through 3 diverse stages including:

Wet Stage – This stage is characterized by extreme and unnecessary sweating for 3-4 hours.

Hot Stage – This stage is presents with high fever that is developed in patient which is over 107°F (41.7°C) for 3-4 hours.

Cold Stage – This is the stage where the sufferers basically chills and feel extremely cold unnecessarily and experience shaking for about 2-3 hours.

How is Cerebral Malaria Treated?

Fortunately, there are treatment guidelines for cerebral malaria that can help to prevent complications in patients, if followed properly. Since cerebral malaria is a fatal disease, patients are required to treat the condition immediately and seek medical attention if any one of the symptoms is observed. There are two different types of treatments available for cerebral malaria including:

  • Antimalarial Chemotherapy
  • Quinine.

The main treatment guideline for malaria includes the use of anti-malarial drug. Antimalarial chemotherapy is offered to the patients as adjunctive procedure. If the patient is not recovering from antimalarial chemotherapy, then the doctors will administer quinine drug. This drug is believed to be the most effective drug to treat the condition of severe malaria. The role of this drug is to impact the digestive ability of the parasite’s enzymatic digestion which leads to its death.

Another part of treatment guideline for cerebral malaria is to manage patient symptoms. Doctors may also administer antipyretics to the patients like paracetamol to control fever. Apart from this, doctors may also ask the patient to take anticonvulsants to prevent and reduce the attack of seizures. To reduce the intracranial pressure, osmotic diuretics and to correct the issue of hypoglycemia hypertonic glucose may be administered.

The best way to combat this type of fatal disease is to identify the symptoms of cerebral malaria and seek medical attention immediately. Following treatment guidelines for cerebral malaria can help to prevent complications and death.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Malaria: Cerebral Malaria: https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/disease.html

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 31, 2023

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