Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) occurs when the esophagus becomes inflamed with a certain type of white blood cell. The blood cell, called an eosinophil, is where the disease gets its name.
Eosinophils are a certain type of white blood cell that is created in a person’s bone marrow. They’re usually active in the types of inflammation caused by allergic reactions, but they can be involved in other forms of inflammation as well. When people are exposed to allergens, eosinophils will gather in large numbers around the allergen and cause the inflammation. The most likely allergens to cause this type of inflammation are either an ingested food or possibly an inhaled allergen such as pollen. Acid reflux can make the symptoms worse, and is sometimes also responsible for eosinophils in the esophagus.
The most common symptom for patients with eosinophilic esophagitis is dysphagia, which is difficulty swallowing food. Often patients will feel like food “gets stuck” in their throat, and sometimes in more severe cases requires a trip to the emergency room to alleviate the obstruction. For those who suffer from frequent heartburn and have trouble swallowing, an appointment with a physician may be helpful. The only way to diagnose eosinophilic esophagitis is with a procedure known as endoscopy with a biopsy performed by a gastroenterologist. If this test is consistent with EoE, an allergist may be able to perform testing to help identify some of the triggers for the eosinophilic inflammation.