Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is a chronic disease of the esophagus (the “food pipe” which goes from the mouth to the stomach), and is triggered by allergies to certain foods or environmental substances (such as pollen, weeds or trees). This leads to redness, swelling, and damage to the esophagus. Adults with EoE commonly complain of difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), feeling food move slowly down the food pipe, or food getting stuck in their food pipe (food impaction).
How common is EoE?
The first reports of EoE were published in the 1970s. At that time, EoE was thought to be a rare disease among children. Since then, we have learned a great deal about this disease, and much has been written and published in the medical journals. Medical research shows that EoE is increasing among people of all age groups and is more common among Caucasians, affecting males more often than females. (5)
Patients can help educate doctors and healthcare providers about EoE
Despite the increasing number of individuals being diagnosed with EoE, most doctors are not familiar with this disease. EoE is often misdiagnosed as the relatively common condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Individuals with GERD often experience symptoms similar to those of an EoE patient including difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and a sensation of a lump in the throat. However, GERD patients also experience the telltale burning in the chest (heartburn). As the symptoms of EoE and GERD are similar, it is not uncommon for doctors to incorrectly diagnose EoE patients with GERD.
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Understanding the cause of EoE and associated risk factors
No one knows exactly why people get EoE. There may be a hereditary (genetic) association among families, as suggested by research studies indicating that EoE tends to run in families. Sometimes a parent with EoE may have a child diagnosed with EoE. Similarly, a child with EoE may also have a brother or sister who is diagnosed with the disease. Research is underway to better understand the hereditary trends observed among families.
There are many risk factors associated with EoE. These are illustrated below. (2,3,4,5)
EoE research has raised awareness of this disease
Some researchers suggest that EoE is becoming more common today because of the increased numbers of clinical research studies published over the past two decades. While this may be so, most doctors remain unaware of this disease. Although clinical research has increased our knowledge, and raised awareness about EoE - more education is needed among health care professionals to learn who is at risk for developing EoE, and how to more successfully diagnose, and treat this disease.
Doctors and scientists continue to conduct important clinical research studies to:
- Gain greater insight into the causes of EoE,
- Expand the understanding of risk factors associated with EoE,
- Isolate genes that increase a person’s risk for developing EoE, and
- Discover new therapies aimed at eliminating the harmful cells (eosinophils) which cause damage to the esophagus.
We are on the threshold of many new scientific and clinical discoveries that are aimed at improving the understanding and management of this disease. Individuals with EoE have the opportunity to help experts find answers to important research questions by volunteering to become a clinical research study participant. If you or a family member have been diagnosed with EoE, you may be a candidate to participate in a clinical study near you.
To learn more about EoE and clinical research, click here.
- McGowan EC, et al. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2016;18(11):58.
- Guarino MP, et al. World J Gastrointest Pharmacol Ther. 2016;7(1):66–77.
- Padia R, et al. Laryngoscope. 2016;126(6):1279–1283.
- Philbott H, et al. Asia Pac Allergy. 2017;7(1):3–9.
- Dellon ES. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2014;43(2):201–218.
Copyright ©2017 Link Health Group LLC. All rights reserved. Authored by Susan Jenny BScN (2017)