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What Is Eosinophilic Esophagitis?
Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) is an inflammatory disease of the esophagus. When a certain type of white blood cell called eosinophil builds up in the lining of the esophagus, the esophagus will become inflamed (Esophagitis). The build-up of the white blood cells is usually a response to acid reflux or an allergic reaction to food and allergens.
EoE can affect people of all ages. However, it is more common in younger Caucasian males, who account for about 75% of cases.
What are the causes of Eosinophilic Esophagitis?
The number of people being diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) has been significantly increasing, linked to the rise in asthma and allergies. Some of the common causes of EoE are:
- Allergic reaction – to food, pollen, etc.
- Esophageal damage- inflammation of the esophagus can lead to scarring of the tissue and narrowing of the esophagus
- Dysphagia and impaction – difficulty swallowing, or having food become stuck in the esophagus
- Chest pain or abdominal pain
Some of the risk factors associated with being diagnosed for EoE are:
- Geography- individuals living in cold, dry climates are more likely to be diagnosed
- Season- you are more likely to be diagnosed with EoE in seasons with higher levels of pollen and other allergens
- Being male
- Allergies and asthma
- Genetics- if someone in your family has EoE, you are more likely to be diagnosed
What Are The Symptoms Of Eosinophilic Esophagitis?
The symptoms for adults and children can differ slightly.
The main symptoms for adults include:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Food getting stuck in your esophagus while eating
- Acid reflux
- Chest pain
- Upper stomach pain
- No response to acid reflux medication
The main symptoms for children include:
- Difficulty feeding (infants)
- Difficulty eating (children)
- Stomach and abdominal pain
- Poor growth, weight loss, malnutrition
- Impaction (food stuck in the esophagus)
If you or your child are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, or take over the counter (OTC) heartburn medication more than twice a week, make an appointment with your nearest gastroenterologist today.
What Are The Treatments For Eosinophilic Esophagitis?
Treatment for Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) primarily focuses on treating the symptoms of the condition.
If you are experiencing symptoms caused by food allergies your physician will most likely recommend that you refrain from eating those foods. Patients are often encouraged to follow the six-food elimination diet (SFED), excluding wheat, milk, eggs, nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish from their diet for a period of time. Symptoms are monitored closely, and individual foods are slowly added back into the diet to determine which foods are triggering the reaction.
Some medication may be prescribed as well such as topical steroids or a proton pump inhibitor. If symptoms continue to persist, your physician might recommend dilation. Dilation is a treatment to help stretch your esophagus to make swallowing easier.