Over the past two decades, the incidence of children and adults needing medical attention because of difficulty swallowing or food impaction has risen, prompting researchers to take a closer look at the problem. The result of their research is the identification of an allergic/immune condition, which they’ve labeled eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).
At Allergy Asthma & Immunology Institute, Dr. Laura Ispas and our team have long been aware of EoE, helping patients in Leesburg, Virginia, find answers and workable solutions. To better acquaint you with EoE, which can mimic other gastrointestinal problems, we’ve pulled together the following primer.
Behind eosinophilic esophagitis
While one of the hallmarks of EoE is difficulty swallowing (and we’ll get to the rest of the warning flags shortly), the condition doesn’t stem from a gastrointestinal problem, but an allergic one. EoE is a condition in which there are high numbers of eosinophils (white blood cells) in the tissue of your esophagus, which causes inflammation. It’s important to note that, under normal circumstances, eosinophils shouldn’t be present in this tissue.
The reason behind the presence of these cells has been tied back to food allergies in the majority of cases. In fact, most people with EoE have a strong family history of allergies and/or asthma and they show signs of allergic reactions in other areas, such as eczema or hay fever.
The signs of eosinophilic esophagitis
While this immune disorder may stem from allergies, the effects it has on the esophagus are what create the telltale warning signs or EoE, which include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Acid reflux that doesn’t respond to medications
- Food impactions
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
EoE affects both children and adults, including toddlers, so the symptoms may be trickier to pin down if your child is unable to articulate the problem. Instead, they may refuse to eat, which can affect their development.
Confirming, or ruling out, eosinophilic esophagitis
If you or your child fit the description above, our first order of business is to run some allergy tests to see whether you may be having a response to certain foods or other allergens. As well, we will likely arrange for an upper endoscopy, in which a camera and special instruments are inserted into your esophagus to take a closer look at the lining and to gather a tissue sample for biopsy.
If we find the presence of eosinophils in the biopsy and you or your child test positive for food allergies, the odds are we’re dealing with EoE.
Treating eosinophilic esophagitis
There’s no cure for EoE, which is considered a chronic condition, but there are several steps we can take to better manage the condition and improve your quality of life, which primarily comes down to diet management.
If you suspect you or your child may have eosinophilic esophagitis, please contact us at (571) 249-1415 or use our online booking tool to request an appointment.