Previously, doctors thought eosinophilic esophagitis symptoms were caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but they now recognize it as a distinct condition with very different causes. Eosinophilic esophagitis is an allergic reaction in which the lining of your esophagus reacts to allergens, such as food or pollen.

Eosinophils are a normal type of white blood cells present in your digestive tract, but in eosinophilic esophagitis they multiply in your esophagus. The eosinophils produce a protein that causes inflammation, which can lead to scarring, narrowing and formation of excessive fibrous tissue in the lining of your esophagus. As a result, you may have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or have food become stuck when you swallow (impaction), as well as other symptoms.

People with eosinophilic esophagitis may also have food allergies, environmental allergies, asthma, atopic dermatitis or chronic respiratory disease. Doctors also think some people are genetically more likely than others to develop eosinophilic esophagitis.

There has been a significant increase in numbers of people diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis in the past decade. At first researchers thought this was due to the increase in awareness among doctors and greater availability of upper endoscopy. However, studies now suggest that the disease is becoming increasingly common, parallel to the increase in asthma and allergy.

June 19, 2014