Eosinophilic esophagitis is a condition of the esophagus. It is characterized by infiltration of the tissue of the esophagus by eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, the cause of which is not entirely clear but appears to be related to allergies (possibly to certain foods). The presence of eosinophils in the esophagus causes inflammation, and can lead to fragility of the mucosa (the tissue lining the stomach and the esophagus), and the development of scar tissue.
Symptoms of Eosinophilic EsophagitisSymptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis may include:
- acid reflux that does not respond to medication
- difficulty swallowing
- food that becomes lodged in the esophagus
- nausea and vomiting
- pain in the chest or stomach
- decreased appetite
Diagnosing Eosinophilic EsophagitisThe diagnosis of eosinophilic esophagitis requires an endoscopy. After giving the patient sedative medications, the doctor will pass an endoscope (a flexible tube with a light source and camera at the end) through the mouth and into the esophagus. The esophagus can be inspected visually, and biopsies can be obtained from the upper and lower portions of the esophagus to allow for the diagnosis of eosinophilic esophagitis.
Treatment of Eosinophilic EsophagitisEosinophilic esophagitis is primarily treated through the use of aerosolized corticosteroids, medications that suppress the function of the immune system. Some physicians also believe in allergy testing to determine whether the elimination of certain foods will be helpful. Trial and error may be necessary when trying to find which foods are causing a reaction. Consulting with an allergist is very helpful in this regard.
Who Gets Eosinophilic Esophagitis?
Eosinophilic esophagitis has only recently been recognized as a disease. It seems to affect individuals of all ethnic backgrounds equally, though it does affect men more frequently than women. Those who have other allergic disorders are also at greater risk for eosinophilic esophagitis.
American Partnership for Eosinophillic Disorders. About EE. Accessed: March 11, 2009 from http://www.apfed.org/ee.htm#ee