Eosinophilic esophagitis is a chronic disease of the esophageal lining associated with food allergies. Eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, respond to an allergen and begin to collect on the walls of the esophagus.
They produce a protein that causes inflammation inside the esophagus. This inflammation leads to scar tissue, constricted esophagus, and the growth of extra tissue.
Eosinophilic esophagitis is most commonly found in males living in a dry or cold region and can cause heartburn, chest pain, difficulty in swallowing, pain in the upper abdomen, and vomiting and regurgitation. It can only definitively be diagnosed by endoscopy and biopsy of the esophagus.
5 Signs and Symptoms of Eosinophilic Esophagitis
Reveal the most common symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis now.
1. Persistent Heartburn
Heartburn, like its name suggests, is the feeling of burning near the heart. This pain is behind the sternum and can be felt from the throat to the stomach.
Regular heartburn is typically caused by eating spicy foods, consuming alcohol, or overeating. Persistent heartburn, seen with eosinophilic esophagitis, gets worse when an individual lies down and does not improve with medication.
Heartburn is the major symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Eosinophilic esophagitis is easily misdiagnosed as GERD, but symptoms do not get better with treatment.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is caused by the relaxation of the sphincter before the stomach, allowing acids to go up into the esophagus, whereas eosinophilic esophagitis is caused by the immune system’s response to allergens.
2. Chest Pain
Chest pain is common in eosinophilic esophagitis considering the effect this disease has on digestion. This discomfort can be felt from the neck down to the stomach and is centrally located on the body.
Chest pain may be caused by many factors including heart, muscle, bone, and lung issues. With eosinophilic esophagitis, the pain is a result of digestive issues. Sometimes food becomes stuck in the esophagus, unable to pass down to the stomach.
Individuals who have eosinophilic esophagitis report spontaneous chest pain occurring specifically after exercising. It is crucial to seek medical attention if the pain becomes unbearable or is accompanied by pain in the jaw or arm or shortness of breath.
3. Difficulties Swallowing
Difficulties swallowing food, or dysphagia, happens due to the build-up of eosinophils on the esophagus and subsequent inflammation.
The esophageal tube is narrowed, making it difficult to pass food from the mouth to stomach. Solid, dry foods can sometimes get lodged in the esophagus.
This is called impaction and can cause pain. Patients with eosinophilic esophagitis must learn to chew food slowly and thoroughly to reduce chances of impaction from occurring.
Eliminating foods likely to get trapped in the esophagus, such as meat, cheese, and bread, can also help with this symptom. A patient who has found relief from esophageal swelling with medicine must continue taking it, or the inflammation will return.
4. Pain in The Upper Abdomen
Pain in the upper abdomen is often the result of food impaction in the esophagus. If the patient is unable to clear it naturally, a doctor may need to insert a tube into the throat.
Should impacted food be left untreated, the body will form mucus or foam and initiate spasms in the esophagus to release the blockage.
These spasms are responsible for most of the upper abdominal pain. A doctor may need to dilate the esophagus if topical steroids do not relieve inflammation. Dilation can be painful over the upper abdomen, but patients heal within days.
This treatment can be performed yearly to reduce complications of the inflamed esophagus.
5. Vomiting and Regurgitation
Both vomiting and regurgitation are reflexive functions of the body, which means they are both involuntary. They vary in that regurgitation happens when food comes back up before it reaches the stomach.
For example, if there is a food impaction, the body makes mucus and foam and the esophagus contracts to push the blockage back up. Vomiting occurs a little later when the brain’s ‘vomit center’ is stimulated. The stomach contracts, forcing undigested food back up through the esophagus and out the mouth.
Vomiting is often accompanied by nausea and a general feeling of sickness. For children with eosinophilic esophagitis, this can lead to malnourishment and failure to thrive. They may also avoid eating altogether.