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What is eosinophilic esophagitis?
Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is an inflammatory, allergic disease. It is newly accepted and may be confused for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EoE occurs when certain white blood cells (eosinophils) build up in your esophageal lining. Eosinophils help fight disease and control allergic reactions. Your esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. It is part of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis
People who have EoE may have symptoms such as:
- Swelling in the throat.
- Chronic throat pain.
- Trouble swallowing.
- Chest or stomach pain.
- Reduced appetite.
- Reflux-like symptoms, such as burping, bad taste, or a burning feeling.
EoE is more common in male adults, but children can have it too. Symptoms for kids may include refusing food or having trouble gaining weight.
Too many white blood cells can cause your esophagus to narrow. This can make food get stuck in your throat.
What causes eosinophilic esophagitis?
The exact cause for EoE is unknown. It is linked to food and environmental allergies.
How is eosinophilic esophagitis diagnosed?
First, your doctor will do a physical exam and review your symptoms. Then, they will order an endoscopy. This is a test in which a thin tube is inserted down your throat. A tiny camera takes pictures of your esophageal lining. The doctor will take a sample of this lining (biopsy) to diagnose EoE. Blood tests may be done to rule out other conditions.
If the doctor diagnoses EoE, they can do an allergy test to see what is causing the reaction.
Can eosinophilic esophagitis be prevented or avoided?
You cannot prevent or avoid EoE. It may run in families.
Eosinophilic esophagitis treatment
There is no cure for EoE. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and prevent further damage. For children, treatment also helps improve growth.
Medicine is one form of treatment. Steroids can reduce swelling and the number of eosinophils. Acid suppressors, such as proton pump inhibitors, can ease reflux-like symptoms.
You may need to make changes in your diet as well. Your doctor can make suggestions based on the results of your allergy test. You also can remove foods from your diet that commonly cause allergies. These include peanuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, wheat, and soy.
People who have EoE may also have GERD and need additional treatment.
Living with eosinophilic esophagitis
EoE is not life threatening. You can manage it with diet and medicines. EoE can cause lasting damage to your esophagus if left untreated. Because EoE is a newer condition, related health issues are unknown.
Questions to ask your doctor
- How do I know if allergies are causing EoE?
- What are the side effects of medicine to treat EoE?
- What types of changes should I make to my diet?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.