What Is Eosinophilic Esophagitis?
People with eosinophilic esophagitis have inflammation of the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach). The inflammation happens because of a buildup of immune cells called eosinophils (ee-eh-SIN-oh-fils).
Most people with eosinophilic esophagitis (ee-eh-sin-eh-FIL-ik eh-sof-eh-JYE-tis) improve with treatment.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Eosinophilic Esophagitis?
Children with eosinophilic esophagitis can have:
- trouble feeding (in younger children)
- trouble swallowing, called dysphagia (in older kids)
- belly pain
What Problems Can Happen?
In some people, eosinophilic esophagitis can lead to:
- food impaction (when food gets stuck in the esophagus)
- scarring and narrowing of the esophagus (called a stricture)
- tears in the esophagus
What Causes Eosinophilic Esophagitis?
Doctors don’t know exactly why some people get eosinophilic esophagitis. It most likely involves an allergic reaction to foods or something in the environment. It happens more often in people who:
- have been on antibiotics a lot
- took medicines to lower stomach acid (antacids)
- have a family member with it
- stayed in the NICU as a newborn
- were not breastfed as babies
The condition is most common in young men, but kids can get it too. People who have it are more likely to also have allergies, asthma, and eczema.
How Is Eosinophilic Esophagitis Diagnosed?
If someone has symptoms like trouble swallowing or eating, belly pain, or heartburn, a gastroenterologist (a doctor who treats digestive system problems) will do tests, including:
- an endoscopy. The doctor puts a thin tube with a light and camera down the throat and into the esophagus, then does a biopsy (takes a small tissue sample for testing).
- blood tests to check for a high eosinophil level and allergies
- skin testing for allergies
How Is Eosinophilic Esophagitis Treated?
Doctors usually treat eosinophilic esophagitis with:
- medicines that lower the amount of acid or inflammation in the esophagus
- dietary changes such as:
- avoiding foods that are common causes of allergies (milk, egg, soy, wheat, nuts, fish, shellfish)
- avoiding foods that allergy testing showed a reaction to
- trying a special liquid diet that has no allergens in it
Working with a dietitian can help make sure a child gets the nutrients needed to grow and thrive.
To treat a stricture, doctors can do a procedure called dilation to widen the esophagus. This is done during an endoscopy.
How Can Parents Help?
You play a big role in your child’s care. Learn all you can about eosinophilic esophagitis, and be sure to:
- Go to all doctor visits.
- Give any medicines as prescribed.
- Support any special diets your child needs.
What Else Should I Know?
Eosinophilic esophagitis is a chronic (ongoing) condition. It can feel like there’s a lot to manage, but the care team is there for you and your child.
You also can find information and support online at:
- Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
- Food Allergies
- Shellfish Allergy
- Nut and Peanut Allergy
- What Is Skin Testing for Allergies?
- Gastroesophageal Reflux