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Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE)

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is an allergic reaction. It occurs in the esophagus. This is the tube that leads from the mouth down to the stomach. The immune system responds to an allergen by making white blood cells called eosinophils. The esophagus then becomes red and swollen. EoE is much more common in people with asthma or allergies.

What causes eosinophilic esophagitis?

Researchers are working to understand the causes of EoE. It may be caused by allergens in the environment. Or it may be caused by food allergens. Foods that are often found to be the cause of EoE include wheat, dairy foods, eggs, and soy. You may be at higher risk for EoE if you have a family history of allergies or EoE.

Symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis

Symptoms of EoE vary from person to person and may include:

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Chest pain

  • Pain in the belly (abdomen)

  • Vomiting

  • Food getting stuck in the throat (a medical emergency)

Diagnosing eosinophilic esophagitis

Your health care provider will ask about your health history and symptoms. He or she will likely want to test you for allergies. You may have an endoscopy. A thin, flexible tube (endoscope) is passed through your mouth and down your throat. The scope has a camera. This lets your health care provider look at your esophagus. The doctor will check for signs of inflammation and an increased number of eosinophils. You may have a biopsy during the procedure. This is a small tissue sample taken from your esophagus.

Other diseases can cause eosinophils in the esophagus. These include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and inflammatory bowel disease. Your health care provider will check for these.

Treatment for eosinophilic esophagitis

You will likely work with special doctors for treatment. You may see an allergy doctor. And you may see a doctor who treats digestive problems (gastroenterologist). Your treatment may include:

  • Medicine. No medicines can cure EoE. But some can help reduce the redness and swelling. These include corticosteroids and proton pump inhibitors.

  • Elimination diet. Not eating certain foods can also help reduce the redness and swelling in your esophagus. These may include dairy foods, egg, wheat, soy, peanut, tree nuts, and fish. Your health care team will give you a plan for finding out what foods may cause your symptoms. This will likely include an elimination diet. On this type of diet, you eat very few foods at first. You then slowly add more foods to see if you have a reaction. An EoE reaction may take days or weeks to develop. Keep this in mind when starting a food elimination diet. It may take some time after avoiding a food to see if that strategy worked.

Living with EoE

You can help manage EoE by learning what things cause your allergic reaction. You will need to avoid these things ongoing to prevent symptoms of EoE.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have any of the following:

  • Increasing weight loss

  • Increase in vomiting

  • Chest pain

 

When to call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Food stuck in your throat

  • Trouble breathing or talking

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/10/2015
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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