Eosinophilic oesophagitis occurs when a specific type of white blood cells – eosinophils – accumulate in the oesophagus. The oesophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach and is part of the upper digestive system. As the eosinophils build up, they cause inflammation in this tube, which then leads to scarring. The result is a narrowed oesophagus and multiple potential problems with the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Eosinophilic oesophagitis is a disease of both the immune and digestive systems. The problem stems from an immune reaction to an allergens, typically foods. The immune system then produces too many eosinophils in response, and these cells result in oesophageal problems.
In infants and children, the systems of eosinophilic oesophagitis include:
People of any age can develop eosinophilic oesophagitis, including infants. However, the disorder is more common among males. Children with food allergies and/or eczema are more likely to develop eosinophilic oesophagitis than other children.
Family history may also play a role. So, children who have closely-related family members with eosinophilic oesophagitis may be more likely to develop the condition.
A paediatric gastroenterologist can establish the presence of eosinophilic oesophagitis through diagnostic testing via an endoscopy into the oesophagus.
Treatments may include specific dietary eliminations following the confirmation of the condition and/or medications to reduce acid production in the stomach. Swallowed steroids to reduce inflammation is also a therapeutic option.
If your child is exhibiting feeding difficulties, or a slow growth, then it’s time to see a specialist. Other signs of a possible problem include frequent regurgitation or “spitting up” in infants, complaints of heartburn or upper chest pain, unresolved abdominal cramping or pain, or a feeling that food is becoming stuck in the throat.
These symptoms don’t necessarily mean that your child is suffering from eosinophilic oesophagitis, but they are cause to visit your paediatric gastroenterologist. Your specialist will conduct evaluations to see if eosinophilic oesophagitis is the reason behind the symptoms or if another disease is present.