Eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders (EGID) occur when eosinophils (pronounced ee-oh-sin-oh-fills), a type of white blood cell, are found in above-normal amounts within the gastrointestinal tract.
Eosinophils are important in your body’s defence against parasitic infections (e.g. worms). However, they are also involved in allergy. In some individuals, eosinophils accumulate in the gut in response to food and/or airborne allergens and can cause inflammation and tissue damage.
The abnormal amounts of eosinophils can occur in the:
diagram of gastrointestinal tract
Eosinophilic oEsophagitis (EoE) is the most common type of Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorder (EGID). The cause of EoE in some individuals appears to be due to an allergy to food(s) and/or aero-allergens.
The current estimated prevalence of EoE is 1–4 cases per 10,000 individuals and rising. People with EoE commonly have other allergic diseases such as asthma or eczema. EoE affects people of all ages, gender and ethnic backgrounds. In certain families, there may be an inherited (genetic) tendency. Males are more commonly affected than females.
oesophagus with white spots
oesophagus with furrowing
The symptoms of eosinophilic oesophagitis vary from one individual to the next and can include:
In other types of eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders, symptoms depend on which part of the gut is affected (e.g. diarrhoea and bloody stools if the small or large intestine is involved).
In addition to (not in lieu of) the above, some people also experience pain in their lower limbs (legs, ankles & feet), ear infections, asthma, croup, migraines, mysterious fevers, and more frequent “colds” when they are reacting to a food. Behavioural changes have also been reported in some children.
Endoscopy and biopsy is the ONLY way to confirm the diagnosis of EGID and EoE. It cannot be diagnosed based upon symptoms alone.
There is no cure for EGID and EoE, but the goal of treatment is to eliminate the eosinophils in the affected area, thereby alleviating symptoms.
Medication can be used alone and/or along with dietary management. The most common medications used are corticosteroids. These are either sprays that are swallowed, or a liquid preparation typically mixed with an artificial sweetener to make a slurry that is swallowed. These medications coat the oesophagus and assist in getting rid of eosinophils. Acid reflux medications may also be used. The doctor will determine which, if any, medications are appropriate for each individual.
skin prick testing
Page last modified: 7 February, 2016