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What is mastocytosis?

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Mastocytosis is a disorder caused by an excess of mast cells in the body. There are two types of mastocytosis, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: systemic mastocytosis, caused by mast cells accumulating in tissues, and cutaneous mastocytosis, caused by mast cells accumulating in the skin.

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Mast cells function in the body's immune system by releasing chemical mediators, such as histamine, as part of an allergic response, as explained by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. High numbers of mast cells result in high levels of released mediators, leading to various possible symptoms, including muscle and bone pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Other potential symptoms, according to the NIAID, include ulcers, abdominal discomfort, itching, hypotension and anaphylactic shock.

Mastocytosis may be diagnosed by performing a skin or bone marrow biopsy. Other methods of diagnosis for mastocytosis may include genetic tests, measurement of mast cell mediators in blood and urine, liver function and blood count studies, as reported by the AAAAI. Symptoms of mastocytosis may be regulated by avoiding dietary and environmental triggers. Other possible treatments include antihistamines, epinephrine, cromolyn sodium and leukotriene-modifying agents. In more aggressive cases, chemotherapeutic agents and interferon may need to be administered.

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