What is mastocytosis?
"Masto-" refers to mast cells. Mast cells are a part of your immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more involved in allergic reactions Overview of Allergic Reactions The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system usually reacts to and attacks bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. An allergy... read more .
Mastocytosis is a buildup of mast cells in your skin and sometimes other parts of your body.
Mastocytosis is rare
Symptoms include itchy spots and bumps, flushing, an upset stomach, and sometimes bone pain
Mastocytosis can affect just your skin or other parts of your body, such as your lungs and lining of your intestines
Mastocytosis of the skin alone isn't life-threatening and sometimes goes away without treatment
Mastocytosis that affects other parts of your body is more serious and can even be life-threatening—you should carry a dose of epinephrine for emergency treatment
What causes mastocytosis?
Mastocytosis develops when your body makes too many mast cells. The mast cells can collect in your skin, bones, or other organs.
Mast cells produce a chemical called histamine. Too much histamine can cause:
Too much stomach acid
Low blood pressure
Doctors don’t always know why your body makes too many mast cells, but some people have a genetic mutation that causes mastocytosis.
What can trigger an attack of mastocytosis?
If you have mastocytosis, certain things can trigger an attack of symptoms, including:
Things you eat or drink, such as foods, alcohol, and certain drugs
What are the symptoms of mastocytosis?
Small reddish brown spots or bumps that may itch
Flushing (turning red all over)
Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up
Fainting and severe drops in blood pressure, which can be deadly
If mast cells build up in your tissues or organs, they can cause damage that can be life-threatening.
How do doctors tell if I have mastocytosis?
Doctors suspect mastocytosis from your symptoms, especially if you have itchy spots and get hives (red, itchy, raised patches on the skin) when you scratch. To know for sure, doctors will do tests, such as:
Biopsy (taking a small sample of skin to look at under a microscope)
Blood and urine tests
Sometimes, bone scan and genetic tests
How do doctors treat mastocytosis?
If you have mastocytosis only in your skin, doctors will treat itching and rashes with:
If mastocytosis affects other parts of your body, doctors will have you take medicine to help with your symptoms.
If your symptoms are severe, doctors may:
Give you a weekly shot to reduce the disease’s effects on your bones
Do surgery to remove your spleen, if mast cells have built up in your spleen
Have you carry an emergency dose of epinephrine (Epi-pen)