Eosinophilic esophagitis is an inflammation in the esophagus due to an overreaction of the immune system. The swelling can make it difficult to swallow.
Causes of Eosinophilic Esophagitis
Eosinophilic esophagitis is caused by the presence of eosinophils in the esophagus. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system associated with allergies. These cells are not normally found in the esophagus. High amount of eosinophils can cause swelling in the tissue.
It is not completely clear why eosinophils appear in the esophagus. Doctors believe them to be associated with a reaction to environmental or food allergens. Common food allergens for eosinophilic esophagitis include wheat, milk, eggs and soy.
Eosinophilic esophagitis is most common in young adults (age 20s – 30s). It's more common in men than women.
Factors that may increase your risk of eosinophilic esophagitis include:
- Having allergies, asthma, eczema or food allergies
- Family history of eosinophilic esophagitis
Symptoms may include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Food getting stuck in the esophagus
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unintended weight loss
- Burning in throat similar to heartburn
Heartburn can also cause swelling and similar symptoms. However, the swelling should decrease once the heartburn is managed. The swelling will continue with eosinophilic esophagitis.
Your doctor will examine you and ask you about your symptoms and medical history.
If eosinophilic esophagitis is suspected or the cause of symptoms isn't clear, your doctor may recommend an endoscopy. An endoscopy uses a special scope to view the tissue of the esophagus. Your doctor may take samples of tissue, called a biopsy, from the esophagus. The sample is then examined at a lab, where eosinophils can be seen.
Eosinophilic Esophagitis Treatment
There's no cure for eosinophilic esophagitis, but you can manage your symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan. Options include:
- Identifying and Avoiding Allergens — Eating certain foods can worsen the swelling in the esophagus. Blood tests may help identify your specific food and environmental allergies.
- An elimination diet may reduce the swelling in the tissue. This type of diet works best if supervised by a dietitian or physician.
Medication may include:
- Swallowed steroids — swallowing of inhaled forms of steroids will often control swelling in the esophagus
- Proton Pump Inhibitors — Proton pump inhibitors to control acid production, which decreases inflammation and eosinophils
Content was created using EBSCO's Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.