What Is Eosinophilic Esophagitis?

Last updated: June 2022

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is a recurring immune infection. It happens when a type of white blood cell known as eosinophil builds up in the esophagus. The tissues of the esophagus then become irritated.1

Having irritated esophageal tissues can give you problems with swallowing or food getting stuck in your throat. A buildup of eosinophils is a reaction to:1

What are the symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis?

EoE shows up in various ways depending on your age. Among adults, symptoms include:1

  • Undigested food coming up from your stomach into your mouth (regurgitation)
  • Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Pain in your chest that returns even after taking antacids
  • Food becoming lodged in your esophagus (impaction)

Symptoms in infants may look similar to adults and can also include:1

  • Throwing up
  • Stomach pain
  • Trouble feeding
  • Growth challenges such as malnutrition and weight loss

What are the causes of eosinophilic esophagitis?

Research shows that this condition happens as a reaction to particular foods and allergens in our environment.2

Who is likely to get eosinophilic esophagitis?

People with environmental or food allergies, eczema, or asthma are more likely to get EoE. People assigned male at birth are also more likely to get EoE. Family history also affects who gets EoE. If there are members of your family who have this disease, the chances of you getting it are higher.3

How do doctors diagnose eosinophilic esophagitis?

There are various ways that doctors diagnose EoE. These ways include:1

  • Biopsy. A doctor collects a small sample of tissue and looks at it under a microscope for eosinophils.
  • Upper endoscopy. A doctor inserts a long thin tube with a light and a small camera into your mouth and to the esophagus. This helps them get a clear look at your esophagus and search for any swelling, white spots, and inflammation.
  • Esophageal sponge. In this test, you swallow a capsule attached to a string. When it reaches your stomach, the capsule dissolves and releases a sponge that the doctor pulls out. On its way out, the sponge collects samples along the esophageal tissues. This helps your doctor establish the level of inflammation and swelling in your esophagus.
  • Blood tests. Your doctor will usually carry out blood tests if they suspect you have EoE. This test will figure out if you have a high number of eosinophils or immunoglobulin E levels. High levels mean you have an allergy.

How do doctors treat eosinophilic esophagitis?

Three treatment strategies are recommended for this condition:4

  • Managing your diet. Allergic reactions are a known cause of EoE, so your doctor may recommend paying attention to what you eat. Certain foods such as milk, eggs, nuts, beef, wheat, fish, corn, and soy can trigger these allergies. You will remove foods from your diet and return them one at a time. This strategy determines which food is causing the allergic reaction.
  • Medicine. Your doctor may recommend antacid medicines known as proton pump inhibitors and steroids. They help to manage inflammation and subdue eosinophils.
  • Dilating the esophagus. This approach involves your doctor stretching your esophagus. It may be especially helpful if you often have food stuck in your esophagus. Doctors usually carry out this treatment during an endoscopy or a different procedure.

What is the outlook for eosinophilic esophagitis?

People living with EoE must stay on top of their condition with dietary changes, medicine, and other treatments. The good news is, you can live a long life with EoE. There is also no evidence that it causes other illnesses, such as cancer of the esophagus.5

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