Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is usually caused by a food allergy, and it can affect your child’s ability to eat. Warning signs such as problems swallowing, weight loss, stomach pain, and reluctance to eat warrant a visit to a pediatric gastroenterologist.
Eosinophilic esophagitis overview
EoE is an allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus, which is the tube that enables food to pass from the throat to the stomach.
When you have an allergic reaction, different cells cause a host of symptoms, including itching and swelling. A type of white blood cells called eosinophils are involved in allergic reactions.
Eosinophils are key to the immune system and are always present in the blood in small quantities. They keep harmful microbes at bay by fighting parasites and performing other duties. When there are too many eosinophils, they can cause problems.
Children with allergies have eosinophils in different areas. For example, children with seasonal allergies have eosinophils in their nose, while children with asthma have eosinophils in their lungs.
As you may have guessed, children with EoE have eosinophils in their esophagus. Additionally, children with EoE tend to have other allergic conditions, such as asthma and seasonal allergies.
While EoE is rare, the number of children diagnosed has risen in the past decade, likely due to better recognition of the condition.
Symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis
Children with EoE may experience:
- Stomach pain
- Abdominal discomfort
- Difficulty swallowing
- Throat discomfort
In infants with EoE, parents tend to notice that their baby has trouble feeding, spits up, or shows signs of discomfort. Symptoms of EoE are often mistaken for acid reflux, and a small number of children with reflux have EoE.
Diagnosis of eosinophilic esophagitis
If you notice that your child has any sort of digestive or nutrition issues, visit us at the Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, and we’ll take it from there. Our compassionate and skilled gastroenterologists perform a comprehensive evaluation to provide you with answers.
If our gastroenterologists suspect your child has EoE, they’ll need to biopsy the esophagus, which is the only way to diagnose EoE. Your child is sedated during the biopsy, and the doctor uses an endoscope to take a sample of tissue and sends it to a lab for examination. Because the esophagus of children with EoE tends to look normal upon visual examination, a biopsy is crucial.
Typical allergy tests, such as skin prick, usually aren’t effective in diagnosing EoE. The doctor first rules out conditions that share the same symptoms, like heartburn.
Managing eosinophilic esophagitis
Food allergy is most often the cause of EoE. Certain foods are more likely to cause problems in children. The doctor may have you restrict your child’s diet to detect the trigger food. The most common foods that cause allergic reactions in children are:
- Tree nuts
Other foods that can cause problems are:
Keep in mind that any food can cause allergies, and some children are allergic to more than one food.
Children with esophageal damage related to EoE may require a strict diet for 12 weeks to enable the esophagus to heal. This involves drinking a special medical formula and eliminating all food before gradually and systematically reintroducing foods.
If you suspect that your child has digestive issues, we’re one phone call away. Reach out to one of our team members by calling 708-581-5911 to schedule a consultation or request an appointment online. We have offices throughout the Greater Chicago area in Evergreen Park, Naperville, Elmhurst, Joliet, Munster, Bourbonnais, and Hazel Crest, Illinois.