How Are Mast Cell Disorders Treated?

Jan 03, 2024
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Do you deal with symptoms that resemble allergies regularly? But what if allergies aren’t actually the culprit? It might be because you have a mast cell disorder. Find out how these disorders are diagnosed and treated here.

Allergy-like symptoms, such as unexplained flushing, abdominal pain and bloating, or severe reactions to foods, medications, or insect stings, don’t always mean you’re dealing with allergies. If allergy testing comes back inconclusive, you might be dealing with a mast cell disorder. 

Mast cells are white blood cells located all over your body. They’re a part of your immune system and help fight off foreign invaders by releasing an inflammatory chemical histamine to keep you safe. However, mast cell disorders happen when you have mast cells that are either defective or overly active. 

While mast cell disorders are incredibly rare, they’re becoming more recognized and better understood by medical experts. 

Because mast cell disorders can be tricky to diagnose and treat, our team led by Chad W. Mayer, DO, FAAAAI, FAAP, at the Allergy and Asthma Institute of Southeast Michigan, reviews the different types of mast cell disorders and how they’re treated.


Mastocytosis happens when too many mast cells build up under your skin, bones, intestines, and organs. This can cause symptoms like itchy bumps on your skin, diarrhea, and bone pain. When you have mastocytosis, it can increase your risk of anaphylaxis if you encounter certain environmental triggers such as insect stings.

To diagnose mastocytosis, our team orders a blood and urine test and may also need a skin or bone marrow biopsy to determine the subtype of mastocytosis you’re dealing with. 

Depending on the type and severity of your symptoms, treatment for mastocytosis can include antihistamines, corticosteroids, and epinephrine injections.

Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)

MCAS occurs when your mast cells release too many protective chemicals, such as histamine, resulting in allergy-like symptoms, such as itchy or swollen skin, mucus buildup, tight airways, wheezing, headaches, and even anaphylaxis. These reactions can be caused by anything from infections to elevated stress levels to insect stings.

To diagnose MCAS, we test your histamine levels and also review your symptoms to see if they’re not only chronic but also affecting multiple bodily systems. MCAS isn’t curable but can be managed by avoiding known triggers, taking antihistamines, and using epinephrine injections when necessary.

Hereditary alpha-tryptasemia

When you have an allergic reaction, your mast cells release a substance known as tryptase. 

However, when you have the genetic mast cell disorder known as hereditary alpha-tryptasemia, you have one or more extra copies of the alpha tryptase gene, meaning your body produces too much of the chemical tryptase, leading to symptoms such as flushing, itching, reflux, skeletal abnormalities, and elevated blood pressure while standing. 

To diagnose this mast cell disorder, we test your tryptase levels along with reviewing all of your symptoms and triggers. Hereditary alpha-tryptasemia can typically be managed with antihistamines.

To be tested for a mast cell disorder or for expert mast cell disorder treatment, look no further than our team at the Allergy and Asthma Institute of Southeast Michigan. To set up an appointment with us, simply call us at 248-363-3232 or book online today.