How To Treat Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Eosinophilic esophagitis occurs when white blood cells build up in the esophagus, resulting in trouble swallowing, chest pain, and acid reflux. Symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis can mimic those of gastroesophageal reflux disease, but the underlying causes of the condition are very different. Individuals who have eosinophilic esophagitis essentially have an overactive immune system that keeps sending white blood cells to the esophagus even though there are no attacking microorganisms there. Over time, the excess buildup causes inflammation, scar tissue formation, and a narrowed esophagus. Diagnosing eosinophilic esophagitis typically involves ruling out gastroesophageal reflux disease and taking biopsies of the throat tissue. 

Esophageal Dilation


Esophageal dilation is a procedure that may be required if your eosinophilic esophagitis is very severe. This process provides relief for eighty-four percent of all eosinophilic esophagitis patients because it helps to increase the width of the esophagus. During this procedure, the doctor will guide a dilating balloon or series of plastic dilators through the esophagus. This widens the region and makes it easier to swallow.

Esophageal dilation is typically a straightforward procedure. Patients can ask to be put to sleep entirely, but many doctors do it while their patient is awake. If you are awake during the experience, you will just get a numbing spray applied to the back of the throat and feel a slight sensation of pressure in the chest. Patients can typically go back to eating the next day. In some cases, patients may need to repeat the procedure again at a later date.

Make Dietary Adjustments


A lot of cases of eosinophilic esophagitis are made far worse by the consumption of certain foods. Eosinophilic esophagitis is a type of chronic immune system disease that is very similar to an allergic reaction. Since most cases of eosinophilic esophagitis occur in those who have an allergy to something, the two conditions are closely linked. Some individuals may not display any other major symptoms of allergies, but if they have even a mild food intolerance, eating it could be enough to trigger more white blood cell build up in the esophagus.

If you think it might help to make dietary adjustments, you need to figure out what you are allergic to. Unfortunately, classic allergy testing might not reveal what types of food are causing your eosinophilic esophagitis. Instead, doctors suggest patients avoid common allergens like dairy, wheat, soy, egg, nuts, and seafood, for a while before gradually reintroducing them to find triggers.

Maintain A Healthy Weight


Individuals of all weights end up dealing with eosinophilic esophagitis, so weight does not affect the risk of developing the condition. However, once an individual has the condition, their weight can become an issue. Because eosinophilic esophagitis makes it so difficult to eat, many patients end up losing weight. In fact, young children who cannot talk about their symptoms yet are often diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis due to concerns about unhealthy weight loss. Most individuals assume any weight besides obese is healthy, but the reality is that being underweight can be very dangerous as well. 

To avoid abnormal heart rhythms, reduced fertility, and other health problems caused by being underweight, patients with eosinophilic esophagitis have to be very careful about watching what they eat. A good option for many patients who need to maintain a healthy weight may be supplemental shakes that contain nutrients and calories while being easier to swallow.

Elevate The Head Of Your Bed


This treatment does not help all the symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis, but it can be useful for dealing with the acid reflux many individuals experience. When you elevate the head of your bed, you end up slightly lifting your esophagus at an angle. This helps to keep the contents of the stomach from flowing back into the esophagus. It also takes a little pressure off the esophagus, so you are less likely to experience chest discomfort. Actually elevating the head of your bed can require a little work. You need to get something sturdy, like a block of wood, that is flat and wide.

Experts recommend individuals elevate the two legs at the head of the bed by at least six inches for maximum efficiency. If you do not want to place the whole bed at an incline, try a wedge pillow or foam support. This is a triangular-shaped device that fits under the mattress and places just the top part at an angle.

Try Relaxation Techniques


High stress tends to result in higher levels of inflammation, so it is generally recommended for patients with eosinophilic esophagitis to stay as relaxed as possible. There are plenty of useful techniques, so try a few until you find one that works. Keep in mind activities like watching television or reading a book do not count as a relaxation technique. Instead of trying to distract your mind with external stimulation, a good relaxation technique requires individuals to actively seek calmness. Simple meditation techniques like taking deep breaths or systematically tensing and relaxing muscle groups can be quite effective. Rhythmic movements like swimming or doing yoga can also be beneficial. Good relaxation techniques will help to slow heart rate, relax muscles, increase blood flow to the brain, and stabilize blood pressure.


    HealthPrep Staff