EGE is a rare disease in which a type of white blood cell, the eosinophil, gathers in many areas of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. For example, this cell may gather in the stomach and small intestine. This causes injury and inflammation to those organs. EGE can affect both adults and children. People with EGE often have other allergic problems. There may be a genetic cause to EGE.
In many cases, it is not known what causes EGE. Food and / or environmental allergies may lead to development of this disease.
- Difficulty feeding
- Difficulty gaining weight
- Poor growth and weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
- Diarrhea or constipation
A doctor will perform an upper endoscopy and / or a lower endoscopy (a colonoscopy) depending on your child’s symptoms. An endoscopy is the only way to diagnose EGE. An upper endoscopy involves a small tube going through the esophagus, stomach and part of the small intestine. For a lower endoscopy, the doctor places a tube into the anus, rectum and large intestine. For both types of endoscopies, the patient is under general anesthesia. Small tissue samples will be taken. These samples are called biopsies. A pathologist will look at these biopsies. They are looking to see if there are more eosinophils than normal. There is not a set number of eosinophils that lead to a diagnosis. That is why a diagnosis can be difficult. A doctor will use symptoms, what they see during the endoscopies and the pathology report to lead to a diagnosis.
EGE is treated by diet changes or steroids. Diet changes may include elimination diets. This is when certain foods or common food allergens are removed. Elemental diets are another option. This happens when all foods are removed. For this diet, nutrition is given through a special formula. Steroids may be prescribed. Patients may need nutritional supplements. This varies for each patient. Other therapies, such as biological agents, are still being researched.
Treatment helps the symptoms of EGE but does not cure it. EGE is a life-long condition. Having endoscopies with tissue samples regularly is needed to check EGE. This also helps to see if treatment is working.