I’ve taken various photos of my mast cell reactions and thought it might be useful to put them in one place. I wish I’d had the forethought to video an anaphylactic reaction but at the time I didn’t know what was happening and was terrified and very poorly so it didn’t cross my mind. Until I was diagnosed with MCAD all the medical staff I saw thought that it was impossible to react to the ordinary things I did and that I was just having some kind of panic attack, so I stopped seeing them and just managed the reactions myself. Because of that, I haven’t had most of my symptoms evaluated by a doctor knowledgeable in mast cell diseases so I’m only guessing that some of the reactions below were mast cell related, ie the ‘freckle’ pictures and some of the weird rashes. The flushing and dermographism are absolutely mast cell related and I can reproduce them given the right triggers, ie drugs, heat, stress, pressure, friction, alcohol and certain foods.
I’m sure healthy people look at some of the photos and think “I get an imprint if I lean on something bobbly” or “I get a red mark if I’m bitten by an insect” but there are differences between a healthy reaction and a mast cell reaction. For example, my dermographism lasts between 6-24 hours and involves swelling of the tissues whereas the imprint of leaning on something for a healthy person should disappear within minutes and would involve no swelling. In addition, my dermographism itches like crazy for several hours afterwards, whereas a healthy person who leans on something wouldn’t itch at all.
If I’m bitten by a midgy I get an exaggerated local immune response, with the redness and swelling far outweighing the extent of the bite. The itching, redness and/or swelling can then last for several days, weeks or even months as it sets off a vicious cycle of mast cell reaction, which wouldn’t be the case for someone healthy.
We can all go red when we’re hot as our capillaries rise to the surface of our skin to cool down, but mast cell induced flushing with heat is extreme and actually makes me feel unwell (tired, brain fogged and kind’ve fluey). The heat rash also itches, which wouldn’t be experienced by someone healthy. The flushing when I’ve eaten high histamine foods or taken a drug I react badly to accompanies an anaphylactic event (vomiting, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, muscle spasms etc.) and isn’t an isolated symptom. I always know when I’m doing too much (either physically or mentally) because I start to flush – this is my cue to go lie down or, if I ignore that and keep going, I will eventually collapse.