“We’re learning more every day,” New type of food allergy on the rise

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKYC) – A new type of food allergy is hard for patients to swallow.

Eosinophilic esophagitis causes the esophagus to swell, making it hard for patients to swallow food.

“It’s considered a newer medical diagnosis, identified just in the last 15 to 20 years. We’re seeing a steady increase in the number of people with this condition and we don’t really have a clear cause yet,” said Dr. Princess Ogbogu, director of the allergy and immunology program at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

Experts say the problem is related to both food and pollen allergies, and may be more common in people with allergies and asthma.

According to WKYC, eosinophils are white blood cells that aren’t normally found in the esophagus. However, when those cells collect in the esophagus, it can cause inflammation, scarring and narrowing of the airway. 

“Children with EoE complain of stomach pain and refuse to eat. They may have trouble swallowing, vomit frequently, and have failure to thrive,” Ogbogu said. “Adults and teens with EoE also have difficulty swallowing and issues with food getting impacted in the esophagus, which can lead to an emergency department visit for removal. They can also get persistent heartburn that’s not relieved with medication and even chest pain.”

Treatment for EoE usually consists of elimination diets and medical therapy.

Experts say the culprit is often among the eight foods that cause about 90 percent of all food allergies in the United States; those foods include peanuts, tree nuts, cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

Many times, the symptoms are seasonal and related to pollen that is easily inhaled and swallowed.

“Unfortunately, this condition is becoming more common, but the testing and monitoring hasn’t caught up yet. We are learning more every day,” she said.

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