Researchers at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center are partnering with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio to study a new allergy called eosinophilic esophagitis, or EoE. It is an inflammatory response in the esophagus that makes it hard to swallow food and which has other, more serious physical ramifications if left untreated.
Considered a new diagnosis, EoE was first identified about two decades ago and didn’t become an accepted medical diagnosis until just a few years ago. A steady increase in the number of people with EoE has prompted more study into the condition, which is a type of allergic reaction, but whose cause is not known. It is widely believed that EoE is associated with both food and pollen allergies, as many patients diagnosed with it have a history with both, and it appears to be more common in those who have a history of allergies and asthma as opposed to being a first-time diagnosis.
The condition gets its name from the white blood cells called eosinophils, which are not normally found in the esophagus. These immune cells fight off certain types of infections, but too many of them can cause damage to the body. Those with asthma commonly have high eosinophil counts as do those with Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, lupus, eczema, and some types of cancer. Although not normally in the esophagus, the eosinophils can get there and collect, causing inflammation. With EoE, this happens repeatedly due to a (usually unknown) allergic reaction, leading to damage, scarring, and a narrowing of the esophagus.
Treatment for EoE is usually the same or very similar to treatments for other food allergies. Abstinence from the known allergen (after testing) and sometimes an inhaler of topical steroids for reducing inflammation are prescribed.
The researchers at OHU and NCH hope to find more information about EoE through study of patients currently diagnosed with it and new patients entering the facilities under the umbrella of the two organizations.
Source: Press release