Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE): Overview

What is eosinophilic esophagitis?

Eosinophilic esophagitis, also known as EoE is the chronic inflammation of the esophagus caused by food allergies. Diagnosis of EoE can only be made after a biopsy, a tiny tissue sample take from the esophagus, shows increased numbers of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell associated with allergies. The inflammation can cause a number of vague symptoms including abdominal pain, reflux like symptoms, and swallowing or feeding problems.

EoE is one of several eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders (EGID) that can affect other parts of the gastrointestinal tract:

  • Eosinophilic esophagitis affects the esophagus.
  • Eosinophilic gastritis affects the stomach.
  • Eosinophilic gastroenteritis affects the intestines or multiple areas of the GI tract.
  • Eosinophilic colitis affects the large intestine and bowel. 

What causes eosinophilic esophagitis?

EoE is called an allergen-mediated disease, meaning it is caused by exposure to certain foods in a predisposed person. The reaction happens much like when a person develops seasonal allergies after exposure to a particular allergen like pollen, dust or mold. Genetics likely contribute to the development of EoE because EoE, like other allergen mediated diseases, often affects more than one family member.

Who gets eosinophilic esophagitis?

EoE can occur in both children and adults. It usually affects boys more often than girls. EoE can run in families. For instance, it is not unusual for a parent or other relative to have a history of food getting stuck in the esophagus, swallowing problems or esophageal dilations.

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