What is the role of mast cell stabilizers used in the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis?

Updated: Oct 08, 2019
  • Author: Mark Ventocilla, OD, FAAO; Chief Editor: Andrew A Dahl, MD, FACS  more...
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Mast cell stabilizers have a mechanism of action that is unclear. They may aid in the phosphorylation of a 78,000-d protein that terminates secretion of mast cell granules; they may increase calcium influx into the cell preventing membrane changes; and/or they may reduce membrane fluidity prior to mast cell degranulation. The end result is a decrease in degranulation of mast cells, which prevents release of histamine and other chemotactic factors that are present in the preformed and newly formed state.

Note that mast cell stabilizers generally do not relieve existing symptoms and are to be used on a prophylactic basis to prevent mast cell degranulation with subsequent exposure to the allergen. Therefore, they need to be used long term in conjunction with various other classes of medications. Common mast cell stabilizers include cromolyn sodium and lodoxamide (Alomide). Alcaftadine (Lastacaft), bepotastine (Bepreve), olopatadine (Patanol), nedocromil (Alocril), and ketotifen (Zaditor) are also mast cell stabilizers with additional antihistamine properties and proactively inhibit histamine release while blocking subsequent distal pathway histamine receptors.

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