Primary headache syndromes in systemic mastocytosis

Jonathan H. Smith, Joseph H. Butterfield, F. Michael Cutrer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Aim: To investigate the relationship between clinical mast cell activity and primary headache syndromes.Methods: We surveyed individuals with systemic mastocytosis, an uncommon disorder associated with increased mast cell activity. Diagnoses of primary headache syndromes in addition to the relationship of headache and symptoms of mastocytosis were ascertained.Results: A response rate of 64/148 (43.2%) was achieved. Headache diagnoses in our respondents (n = 64) were largely migraine (37.5%) and tension-type headaches (17.2%). Typical aura with and without migraine headache was highly represented in our patient population (n = 25, 39%). Three individuals met criteria for primary cough headache (4.7%). Symptoms reflective of mast cell activity were significantly greater in individuals reporting headaches. Patients experiencing headache concurrently with mastocytosis flairs were more likely to be male (p = 0.002), have histaminergic symptoms, such as itching (p = 0.02) and runny nose (p = 0.03), and have unilateral cranial autonomic features (p = 0.04). However, using standardized International Headache Society criteria, we did not identify individuals with cluster headache or other trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias in this population.Conclusions: Our observational survey-based data supports a clinical relationship between mast cell activity and primary headache syndromes. Generalizability of our results is limited by the low response rate and possible tertiary referral bias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1522-1531
Number of pages10
Issue number15
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Mast cell
  • headache
  • mastocytosis
  • pathophysiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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