Mast cells, a type of blood cell, play an important role in the body’s immune system. They reside in all body tissues and form part of the body’s initial defense system. Mast cells react to foreign bodies and injury by releasing a variety of potent chemical mediators, such as histamine, when activated. In a healthy person these chemicals will act beneficially to protect and heal the body, but in a person with MCAS these same chemicals are inappropriately triggered and released and have a negative effect on the body. Amongst the triggers are a variety of different foods, exercise, chemicals, fragrances and stress. Many sufferers struggle to identify their triggers and continue to discover new triggers for many years after diagnosis.
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome [MCAS] causes a wide range of unpleasant, sometimes debilitating, symptoms in any of the different systems of the body, frequently affecting several systems at the same time. The onset of MCAS is often sudden, affecting both children and adults, sometimes in family groups, mimicking many other conditions and presenting a wide-range of different symptoms that can be baffling for both the patient and their physician. Often there are no obvious clinical signs since MCAS confounds the anatomy-based structure underpinning the traditional diagnostic approach. Very often Mast Cell Activation Syndrome is hiding in plain sight.
Today, October 20th, is International Mast Cell Diseases Awareness Day. It aims to raise awareness for the need of more accurate diagnostics, better treatments, further investments in research… A day that will lift up the hopes of mast cell patients all over the world in dreaming for a brighter future.
The Mast Cell Disease Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting patients affected by Mastocytosis and Mast Cell Activation Diseases as well as their families, caregivers and physicians through research, education and advocacy. You can learn more here, and make a donation to aid the search for a cure.