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A to Z: Eosinophilic Esophagitis

May also be called: EE; EoE; EO; Primary Eosinophilic Esophagitis (PEE); Allergic Eosinophilic Esophagitis (AEE); Idiopathic Eosinophilic Esophagitis (IEE)

Eosinophilic esophagitis (ee-o-SIN-o-fil-ik uh-sof-uh-JI-tis) is irritation and swelling of the esophagus caused by a buildup of eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) in the wall of the esophagus.

More to Know

The esophagus is the muscular tube connecting the mouth to the stomach. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that the body’s immune system produces in response to an allergic reaction or infection. Normally, the wall of the esophagus has no eosinophils. If the body’s immune system senses an allergen (something that causes an allergic reaction), it can send lots of eosinophils to the esophagus to deal with it. This can thicken the wall of the esophagus and lead to difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Doctors don’t know which allergens cause eosinophilic esophagitis, but they think they’re found in certain foods. Genetic and environmental factors also may play a role. Treatment choices include an elimination diet to determine and avoid the foods that can trigger the condition, medications to decrease inflammation and acid production, and occasionally, a procedure to dilate (widen) narrowed parts of the esophagus.

Keep in Mind

People with eosinophilic esophagitis are more prone to other illnesses associated with allergies, like eczema and asthma. A specialist can help determine if foods are triggering the EE and its symptoms. Symptoms often improve after dietary changes. If this is the case, a dietitian can help to make sure the person gets adequate calories and nutrition.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.