For Johanna Watkins, a woman from Minnesota, life can be like walking through a minefield.
Ms. Watkins had mast cell activation syndrome. As a result, exposure to everyday experiences such as dust, food, chemical compounds, and even air pressure changes can put her life in jeopardy. You can read more about this story here.
In mast cell activation syndrome, mast cells produce an excessive level of chemical mediators in response to very minor changes, which results in very rapid and severe allergic reactions, known as anaphylaxis. The condition affects the function of multiple bodily systems and causes severe inflammation. You can learn more about mast cell activation syndrome by clicking here.
While what can set off one of these reactions tends to vary from person to person, in Johanna’s case, it seems like almost anything could be a trigger. The only scent that she does not react to are those of her siblings, for example. Even being in physical proximity of her husband Scott could be potentially fatal. As a result, they solely interact through text and telephone conversations; their dates consist of them both watching the same movie in different locations, while talking over the phone.
For Johanna, the diagnosis meant a lot of loss and isolation. She cannot go outdoors and has next to no face to face interactions with other people. Before, Johanna lived a fairly typical lifestyle, and she was perfectly healthy when she first married Scott. There was a great deal of pain the came with realizing that they could no longer be in the same room, but the support of her loved ones now means more than ever before.
The illness was only discovered for the first time in 2007, and many experts think that cases are more common than previously understood. Currently there is no cure, with symptoms varying from severe to subtle. However, many experience a general worsening of symptoms as time passes. Lifespan for those with mast cell activation syndrome is normal.