Mastocytosis is considered as an uncommon erratic buildup of mast cells in the skin and oftentimes in different parts of the body. This condition is rare and different from the usual allergic reactions since it is categorized as chronic rather than episodic.
Mastocytosis develops once the mast cells double in number and buildup in the tissues over a period of years. The mast cells are a component of the immune system and normally present in several body tissues especially the lungs, skin and intestinal lining. The mast cells generate histamine which is a substance involved in allergic reactions as well as the production of stomach acid. Since the number of mast cells increases, the level of histamine also increases.
Some individuals have a genetic mutation that results to mastocytosis. In some cases, the cause for the condition is still unclear.
What are the types of mastocytosis?
Mastocytosis mainly affects the skin or other regions of the body.
- Cutaneous – this form typically occurs among children. Occasionally, the mast cells buildup only as one mass in the skin usually before the age of 6 months. As the mast cells gather in various parts of the skin, they form small, reddish brown spots or bumps (urticarial pigmentosa).
- Systemic – this form usually occurs among adults. The mast cells buildup in the stomach, skin, liver, intestine, spleen, bone marrow and lymph nodes. The organs continue to function with minimal disruption. Nevertheless, if several mast cells buildup in the bone marrow, a few red blood cells are generated and serious blood conditions such as leukemia can develop. If several mast cells buildup in the organs, they start to malfunction.
What are the indications?
The bumps and spots might itch especially if they are scratched or rubbed. The itchiness can be aggravated by the following:
- Temperature changes
- Contact with clothing or other materials
- Consumption of spicy foods, hot beverages or alcohol
- Using certain drugs including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
If the individual scratches or rubs the spots, it can trigger hives and even make the skin appear red. The flushing is also common.
The itchiness triggered by cutaneous mastocytosis can be managed with antihistamines. Among children, no other treatment is required. If an adult has rashes and itchiness, ultraviolet light and corticosteroid creams can be applied on the skin.
As for systemic mastocytosis, it could not be cured, but the symptoms can be managed using H1 and H2 blockers. The H1 blockers or antihistamines can alleviate the itchiness. The H2 blockers work by reducing the production of acid in the stomach to reduce the symptoms of the peptic ulcers.