EoE is a chronic autoimmune disease where if I eat something I'm allergic to, my body will attack itself. More specifically, eosinophils will gather in you're esophagus causing inflammation and swelling, resulting in the food getting stuck in my esophagus. It is different from anaphylaxis and EpiPens won't do anything to resolve it. There is no cure for EoE and it is managed through diet changes and sometimes special dietary formula supplements.
EoE is relatively new in the medical world, which is one reason why it takes people so long to reach this diagnosis.
Doctors are just starting to explore the possibility of environmental allergies causing some people to have EoE.
What causes eosinophilic esophagitis?
While the exact cause of EoE is not yet known, the general belief is that it’s typically caused by an immune response to specific foods. Many patients with EoE have food or environmental allergies. Researchers have identified a number of genes that play a role in EoE, including a recently discovered gene, calpain14 (CAPN14), that is expressed primarily in the esophagus. These pathways may provide new direction to diagnose, monitor and treat EoE in the future.
Who is affected?
EoE is a newly recognized disease that is now increasingly diagnosed in children and adults. Eosinophilic esophagitis is a rare disease, but increasing in prevalence with an estimated 1 out of 2,000 people affected. EoE affects people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. While both males and females may be affected, a higher incidence is seen in males. People with EoE commonly have other allergic diseases such as rhinitis, asthma, and/or eczema. Certain families may have an inherited tendency to develop EoE.
How is eosinophilic esophagitis diagnosed?
A gastroenterologist must evaluate a patient for the symptoms consistent with eosinophilic esophagitis, taking a careful history. Since EoE can mimic other conditions, more common diseases such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) must first be ruled out.
Symptoms can vary depending on age. Infants, toddlers and children may show different signs than teens or adults. Either way, symptoms can include:
+ Dysphasia (difficulty swallowing)
+ Impaction (Food getting stuck in your esophagus)
+ Chest Pain or Heart Burn
+ Abdominal Pain
+ Poor appetite
+ White blood cell count
+ Eosinophil count
+ IgE level
+ Your allergist may recommend a blood test for food allergies.
+ Your Gastroenterologist will most likely put you on a prescription dose of Omeprazole. After further testing, your doctor may or may not keep you on this medication.
+ If your endoscopy and biopsies come back positive for EoE, you may be required to supplement your diet with a special prescription nutrient formula.
+ In extreme cases, you may use a feeding tube. Occasionally, steroids may be prescribed as a treatment option, but this has yet to be approved by the FDA.
METHODS OF HEALING
Follow your doctor’s orders and if they recommend to cut anything out of your diet, follow their advice. You cannot have a “cheat” day and expect everything to be fine. Many doctors will say it can take up to 90 days for your body to fully expel any of your triggers absorbed by your body.
When you have your biopsy, your esophagus may be sore or tender for a few days. Your gastroenterologist may also use a balloon to dilate your esophagus which may also cause discomfort. You might want to keep soft foods on hand for the next few days while you heal.
I also recommend increasing your vitamins and typical wellness routines at this time because you will be admitted to a hospital or outpatient center for this procedure.
Working with your doctors, you may find an appropriate time to reintroduce some foods into your diet. This must be done very carefully and under their supervision and guidance.
Here are some great links and resources to help you as you navigate your Autoimmune Disease.
HAVE QUESTIONS OR NEED MORE SUPPORT?
ABOUT CLAIRE | I am a wife and mother living in the US Southwest. Since my autoimmune diagnosis, I have learned to love my body through food. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen coming up with allergy friendly recipes our family will love. I also love to keep my body active and occasionally participate in distance running. Our family has a passion for the outdoors, so you can always find us there!
AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE | Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE), Graves' Disease
Their stories are brave, honest and intimately revealing of their diagnosis, their successes, their hardships and their lives. Sharing their stories allows them to put words to their journey while providing inspiration to others with an autoimmune disease.