Scroll down to watch the leading experts describe mast cell disease in detail.
What are mast cells?
Mast cells are white blood cells and are part of our immune system. They are in every part of the body.
Mast cells are filled with chemical mediators such as histamine, heparin, prostaglandins, neutral proteases, acid hydrolases, tumor necrosis factor, chemokines and cytokines just to name a few.
These mediators are released in varying amounts when the mast cell degranulates. Here you can see it happen in real time:
What happens to a patient with mast cell disease?
Some people have mastocytosis (too many mast cells) and some have a normal amount of these cells but have what is called mast cell activation syndrome or disorder. In both of these sets of patients the mast cells can be hyper-sensitive and inappropriately release their mediators when triggered. When this happens it can make the patient incredibly ill with both inflammatory and allergic symptoms.
Because they release histamine, some patients risk having an anaphylactic response and need to be prepared for a life-threatening emergency at any time.
Triggers can be various and hard to pinpoint but by careful tracking a patient can usually begin to see a pattern emerge. Food, medicines, stress, sunlight and exercise can all trigger the mast cells to degranulate and this can cause a mild to severe reaction.
Symptoms are typically multi-system, inflammatory + allergic in nature and can include but are not limited to:
cognitive issues or “brain fog”
These reactions can range from mild to life threatening and are often unpredictable.
Mast cell disease explained in depth by the experts: