Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS): Everything You Need to Know

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Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS): Everything You Need to Know

mast cell activation syndrome

What are mast cells and what is MCAS?

Mast cells are a type of white blood cell. White blood cells are critical to the immune system, also known as the body’s defense system.

Normally, when mast cells are activated, they release substances that help protect and heal the body. But of course, all things in moderation. This activation becomes a problem when these substances are released unnecessarily or in excess.

There are many mast cell disorders. Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) is a specific type of mast cell disorder. MCAS doesn’t necessarily change the amount of mast cells in the body—rather, it causes mast cells to overrespond to perceived threats. In MCAS, mast cells are unnecessarily activated. This means mast cells will release substances that cause inflammation for no reason.

What causes MCAS?

Triggers for MCAS can vary depending on the person, but they can include foods, exercise, fragrances, sudden changes in temperature, medications, infections, and stress. Triggers for MCAS aren’t cut-and-dry. In fact, they can change over time which makes them challenging for patients to identify.

What are symptoms and complications of MCAS?

Symptoms of MCAS impact the entire body, including the GI system, heart, lungs, and nerves. The increase in histamine release can cause flushing, itching, and low blood pressure.

Mast cells also promote release of leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and heparin. These can cause shortness of breath, bone pain, and bleeding problems, respectively. Allergic reactions like anaphylaxis can also occur.

How is it treated?

Drugs that reduce chronic inflammation may be useful in MCAS.

Antihistamines like diphenhydramine and leukotriene inhibitors like montelukast are sometimes helpful for treating the effects of histamine release. Specifically, ketotifen and doxepin are antihistamines that can be useful for MCAS.

Other anti-inflammatory medications may be useful. Cromolyn is a medication that stabilizes mast cells and may help relieve MCAS. Ketotifen is an anti-histamine drug that also stabilizes mast cells.

The knowledgeable pharmacists at The Compounding Center are able to compound your ketotifen, doxepin, or cromolyn capsules gluten- and dye-free!

Get a quote from The Compounding Center.

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