Mast cells, a type of white blood cell, are part of your immune system. They’re found in all parts of your body’s tissues. When mast cells function properly, they release chemical mediators to combat extreme stress, feelings of danger, or allergens. These chemical mediators, such as histamines, cause inflammation and other symptoms while helping to protect your body.
If you have a mast cell disorder, these mediators don’t function as they should. In severe cases of mast cell disorder, you can experience anaphylaxis shock. Mast cell disorder is classified as a rare disease, meaning it affects less than 200,000 people in the United States.
Types of Mast Cell Disorders
There are two primary mast cell disorders. Both occur when mast cell activation is faulty. Mastocytosis is when your body produces too many mast cells, which collect either on your skin or in your organs. Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) is when your body’s mast cells trigger the release of chemical mediators too frequently.
When mast cells release too many chemical mediators, your body is flooded with them, and they trigger all sorts of reactions. These reactions can lead to anaphylaxis.
What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a potentially lethal allergic reaction where your throat and mouth swell, usually within minutes of exposure to an allergen, making it difficult to breathe, and can lead to death if not treated promptly.
Common anaphylaxis symptoms include a rapid, weak pulse, a skin rash, vomiting and nausea, difficulty breathing, and shock.
Mast Cell Disorder Symptoms
As with other types of allergies, mast cell disorders are often triggered by certain foods, weather conditions, fragrances, or stress. Mast cell disorders can be challenging to diagnose and treat because their symptoms resemble other health issues or allergies.
And because mast cells are found in every part of the body, there are many different symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild to life-altering and life-threatening. Here are five common symptoms of mast cell disorder.
Common mast cell skin issues include:
- Flushing of the face, neck, and chest
The disorder can also lead to hemangiomas, bright red birthmarks.
If your mouth, tongue, lips, or throat become swollen, the swelling could restrict your air passageways or just make it difficult to breathe in general. Mast cell disorder can also lead to shortness of breath.
Many people with mast cell disorder suffer from migraines. Other neurologic issues related to mast cell disorder include headaches, numbness, and tremors.
Vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea can all signal mast cell disorder. You may also experience constipation and abdominal pain.
General chest pains, heart palpitations, and rapid heart rate, or tachycardia, are a common heart-related symptoms of mast cell disorder. Both high and low blood pressure may also be present. Long-term mast cell reactions can lead to aneurysms and edema.
Other issues associated with mass cell disorder include depression, memory issues, and sleep problems.
For more information on anaphylaxis and mast cell disorder triggers, symptoms, and treatment, call one of our AIR Care offices in Dallas and Plano, Texas, or make an appointment online through this website.