What Is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome And How Can It Affect Lyme Patients?
The body needs a host of processes to run smoothly for it to be at its healthiest. The organs that make up the body all need to be fed and treated properly in order to thrive. When one system becomes compromised, it often leads to chronic illness and other systems following suit.
But it’s not just organs we need to consider. The health of the human body goes all the way down to the cellular level, and when that becomes compromised, it can wreak havoc on every part of every system.
What is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome?
Mast cells are involved with the body’s allergy response. When a foreign substance enters the body, the cell releases what is called a mediator. This mediator is designed to trigger a reaction that alerts the system to the threat. This can occur quickly or slowly, depending on the substance that causes these cells to activate.
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) occurs when there is no allergen present in the body, but mast cells activate and send out mediators to trigger an allergic reaction anyway. This activation can cause repeated bouts of anaphylaxis. Symptoms that may occur during these attacks include hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, tachycardia, syncope, diarrhoea and nausea, and abdominal pain. The sudden onset of allergic reaction symptoms can be especially scary for patients suffering from repeated attacks, and treatment is required in almost all cases.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the Borrelia bacteria. When a person is bitten by an infected tick, this bacteria enters the body through the bloodstream and moves to other areas, which can lead to significant health issues. Lyme disease was first documented in the late 1900s, but fossilised findings show that the disease has been around for millions of years.
Lyme disease can present in different ways, depending on the length of the illness. In early Lyme disease, the patient will suffer from flu-like symptoms, a bullseye rash at the site of the tick bite, and muscle and joint aches. As the disease progresses, symptoms become more severe and often lead to chronic illness. Chronic Lyme disease can lead to arthritis, neurological deficits (including memory loss and concentration issues), heart problems, and chronic widespread pain. The disease is very serious and can only be treated with antibiotics, though symptoms can last for years following infection, even with treatment.
Does Lyme disease cause Mast Cell Activation Syndrome?
Lyme disease often comes with co-infections because of its ability to weaken the body’s immune system, making it more susceptible to further infection from other pathogens. Often, those co-infections come from outside sources, such as other bacteria or viruses; but in the case of MCAS, the co-infection begins on the inside.
Mast Cell Activation and Lyme disease often go hand in hand because when the Borrelia bacteria attacks the body’s systems, it weakens the immune system and leads to widespread inflammation in the organs, tissues and joints. Because of this, mast cells in the body will activate without any known allergens present. Thus, when Lyme disease is present in the body, it can actually induce MCAS.
What is the treatment for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome?
Treatment for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome starts with diagnosis. To test for MCAS, doctors will do blood and urine analysis, and introduce antihistamines to test for a reaction. When the culprit is found to be MCAS, treatment begins with antihistamines that may have caused relief.
Following the introduction of antihistamines, a number of other processes can help treat MCAS. The first is introducing mast cell stabilisers in the body. The stabilisers will help the mast cells control their overreactions and return their function back to normal so that they are still able to identify allergens without going unnecessarily overboard.
Another course of treatment includes the use of antileukotrienes. This helps prevent mediators from being released from the mast cells, thus slowing MCAS. The final treatment option is the use of corticosteroids, but this is only used in certain cases that involve symptoms including wheezing and oedema.
The bottom line
MCAS is a serious health issue that can lead to chronic illness and exacerbate reoccurring allergy symptoms in patients that suffer from it. Some studies have suggested that Lyme disease can actually cause Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, so it’s important to note symptoms if you or a loved one have been infected with the Borrelia bacteria and are seeking treatment. The first step in overcoming both MCAS and Lyme disease is prompt treatment for both the bacteria and the chronic symptoms that go hand in hand with infection.