Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that are part of the body's immune system. They are found throughout the body in every organ system, in bone marrow, in connective tissues, under the skin, in the lungs, intestines, in the brain, CNS, and more (see here and here and here.) Mast cells can be activated by stress and stressful situations that include intense emotions and extremes in temperature, as well by exposures to chemicals and exposures to many other triggers.
When mast cells are activated they degranulate and give off histamine and other chemicals. The histamine and other chemicals pumped into the body by the degranulating mast cells cause a person to exhibit the symptoms we typically associate with an allergic reaction--sneezing, water eyes, rashes, hives, itching, tongue swelling, difficulty breathing, runny nose, blurred vision, skin flushing, and more.
What are mast cell disorders?
In a mast cell activation related disorder, something has gone wrong with the mast cells. There may be too many of them, they could be irregularly shaped, or they could be degranulating and over-active for unknown reasons. A person with a mast cell related disorder may experience mild to life-threatening reactions after exposure to even very small amounts of a substance to which they react. Learn More!