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What is Eosinophilic Esophagitis?

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EE of EoE) is a chronic allergic inflammatory disease that occurs when eosinophils, a disease-fighting white blood cell accumulates in the esophagus causing damage. The result is inflamed, scared or injured esophageal tissue. According to the ACAAI, one to four of every 10,000 Americans are affected by the disease, and approximately 50 percent of patients are also diagnosed with seasonal allergies or asthma.

What Causes Eosinophilic Esophagitis?

Medical researchers believe that there are numerous environmental and genetic factors that go into the development of eosinophilic esophagitis. For someone who has the disease, there are different triggers that can cause a flare-up, which results in esophageal injuries. While it’s normal for eosinophils to fight off harmful bacteria, for someone with eosinophilic esophagitis the white blood cells identify normal particles, like pollen, as foreign substances.

A few risk factors for eosinophilic esophagitis include:

  • Geography, people who live in cold or dry climates
  • High-Allergy Seasons, such as Fall or Spring
  • Gender, more frequent in males
  • Family History, eosinophilic esophagitis may be passed down genetically
  • Allergies or Asthma

Adverse immune response to foods are a main cause in many patients. Eosinophilic esophagitis can also occur as a result of acid reflux.

What are the Symptoms of Eosinophilic Esophagitis?

The symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis often present themselves differently in children as compared to adults. Children with may have trouble feeding or eating, depending on their age, which can potentially lead to limited growth, malnutrition and weight loss. They may also experience vomiting as a result of the disease.

Adults on the other hand, may feel persistent heartburn and chest pain because of eosinophilic esophagitis. In addition there can be

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Food becoming “stuck” in the esophagus

How is Eosinophilic Esophagitis Diagnosed?

To get eosinophilic esophagitis diagnosed, visit your local doctor to discuss your symptoms. They may recommend a couple tests that will confirm your eosinophilic esophagitis as well as potentially determine a gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) diagnosis. Some tests you can expect include:

  • An Upper Endoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Blood tests

The upper endoscopy will allow the doctor to inspect the esophagus for signs of eosinophilic esophagitis, which include white spots, swelling, horizontal rings and more. It’s possible for the esophagus to look normal, in which case the doctor may want to take a biopsy of the esophagus during the endoscopy.

How is Eosinophilic Esophagitis Treated?

Depending on the patient’s severity and allergen triggers, there are three main treatment options available to people with eosinophilic esophagitis: dietary therapy, medication and dilation. If the eosinophilic esophagitis is inflamed in response to a food allergy, then it is recommended that the patient stops eating certain foods or sticks to a regimented diet. Some medication the doctor is likely to prescribe includes proton pump inhibitor or, if symptoms persist, a topical steroid.

Dilation is a less frequent measure that is recommended when the patient experiences severe narrowing of their esophagus. Dilation essentially stretches the esophagus to make swallowing easier and less painful.