Dallas: 214-373-1773    Plano: 972-473-7544    Fax: 972-473-7545
Anaphylaxis And Mast Cell Disorder
Mast cell disorders cause symptoms throughout your body, yet chances are your doctor can’t find a physical cause for your problems. Richard Herrscher, MD, and Maryam Saifi, MD, at AIR Care are some of the few specialists in mast cell disorders, which are complex, hard to diagnose, and increase your risk of a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. If you struggle with unexplained symptoms, contact us. Call our office today Dallas 214-373-1773 or Plano 972-473-7544 to schedule an appointment.
Anaphylaxis and Mast Cell Disorder Q & A
What are mast cells?

Mast cells are important members of your immune system. They’re abundant in connective tissues throughout your body, where they protect you from harmful pathogens.

Every mast cell contains 50-200 tiny sacs that are filled with biochemicals, including histamine. When the cells encounter bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens, they release their chemicals, activating an inflammatory response and attracting other immune cells to the area to destroy the invader.

While their role in your immune system is vital, mast cells also contribute to health problems. For example, they’re actively involved in allergies, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease, and cancers.

What is a mast cell disorder?
Mast cell disorders occur when you have more mast cells than normal, the existing mast cells are overly reactive, or both. These disorders lead to a toxic amount of mast cell chemicals being released, causing many symptoms and putting you at risk for anaphylaxis.

There are three major types of mast cell disorders:

Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)
MCAS occurs when mast cells are hyperactive, releasing their chemicals when they’re activated by many substances that wouldn’t normally trigger a mast cell response. Food, infections, emotional stress, medications, physical exertion, and temperature extremes are a few examples of potential mast cell triggers.
This mast cell disorder develops when an excessive number of mast cells accumulates in your skin or your internal organs.
Hereditary alpha tryptasemia (HAT)
This is an inherited disorder that causes high levels of tryptase, an enzyme released by mast cells along with histamine. Like histamine, tryptase causes allergic and inflammatory conditions such as asthma, rhinitis, and conjunctivitis. High levels of tryptase increase your risk of anaphylaxis.
What symptoms develop due to mast cell disorders?

Mast cells have a widespread impact on your body, which means your symptoms may arise from one or more body systems. These are a few examples of symptoms caused by mast cell disorders:

  • Skin: Hives, itching, flushing, angioedema
  • Respiratory: Wheezing, nasal congestion
  • Cardiovascular: Fast pulse, low blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal: Diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramps
  • Neuropsychiatric: Anxiety, forgetfulness, dizziness, headache
  • General symptoms: Lethargy and fatigue

Patients with mast cell activation syndrome often go through periods of remission followed by a flare-up of symptoms.

What is the connection between mast cell disorders and anaphylaxis?
When mast cell disorders lead to the release of an excessive amount of chemicals, they trigger a cascade of events that cause anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is essentially a body-wide allergic reaction that occurs when multiple systems react to histamine, causing symptoms such as:
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing or chest tightness
  • Hives
  • Swollen tongue and throat
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting
Anaphylaxis also makes your blood pressure drop, causing pale skin, a weak pulse, and confusion. This massive reaction quickly leads to shock, loss of consciousness, and potentially death. As soon as you develop these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately and inject epinephrine, if you have it for your allergies. If you develop any symptoms of mast cell disorder, call one of the offices in Dallas or Plano, Texas  for an appointment with one of our providers.