If you find yourself with the following symptoms, you may have a condition known as eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE):
- Trouble swallowing
- Heartburn that can’t be relieved through antacids
- Food impaction (food getting lodged in throat)
- Vomiting (spitting-up in children)
- Stomach or chest pain
- Resistance to eating resulting in low body weight (most common in children)
EoE is a newly identified condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract. It occurs when the body produces white blood cells (known as eosinophils) that collect in the esophagus. Eosinophils, in turn, cause the esophagus to become inflamed which can lead to the above symptoms.
While people are not born with EoE, they can develop it in infancy. And while it appears to be most common in children, it can develop in adulthood, too. EoE affects both genders, but it is nearly three times more common in males. People who have a family history of allergies, asthma and atopic dermatitis appear to be more prone to developing EoE.
Those who suffer from EoE often have reflux, too. For a while, scientists classified EoE and reflux as the same malady, but they are now recognized as distinct problems with unique causes. Research indicates that EoE is triggered by allergies—particularly food allergies.
As EoE progresses, it can damage the lining of the esophagus. Endoscopies of patients with EoE often reveal a heavily ringed esophagus known as “corrugated esophagus.” Sometimes scar tissue can develop in response to EoE which can limit the free passage of food through the esophagus, causing food to become trapped or impacted. Eating can be a very unpleasant process for EoE sufferers.
EoE affects up to 1 in 1,000 people and appears to be increasingly more common. While the rise was initially attributed to the phenomenon of doctors being able to accurately diagnose the malady, continuing research shows that EoE is ballooning at rates similar to food allergies and asthma—both of which have been on the rapid rise for the last couple decades.
Allergy desensitization therapy has a successful track record in reducing the effects of EoE because it can condition the body to stop producing so many white blood cells in reaction to allergens. Desensitization can be prescribed through allergy shots or allergy drops. Drops are often the better option since they work for both food and environmental allergies—both of which may contribute to EoE. (Shots have not been shown to be effective with food allergies.)