What is eosinophilic enteritis?
Eosinophilic enteritis is a rare disease in which a type of white blood cell, the eosinophil, accumulates in the small intestine and causes injury and inflammation to those organs. Common symptoms include:
- Vomiting, nausea
- Difficulty feeding and/or gaining weight
- Poor growth
- Abdominal pain
- Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
Who gets eosinophilic enteritis?
Eosinophilic enteritis can affect both adults and children. People with eosinophilic gastroenteritis commonly have other allergic disorders, and there may be some genetic tendency to develop the disease.
What causes eosinophilic enteritis?
In many cases, it is not known what causes eosinophilic enteritis. Food and/or environmental allergies may play a role in the development of this disease.
How is eosinophilic enteritis diagnosed?
An endoscopy with biopsies is the only definitive way to diagnose eosinophilic enteritis. A doctor will perform an upper endoscopy and/or a lower endoscopy (a colonoscopy) depending upon symptoms. An upper endoscopy involves a small, lighted tube being directed through the esophagus, stomach and part of the small intestine, while a lower endoscopy involves placement into the anus, rectum and large intestine. Small tissue samples will be taken and a pathologist will review these biopsies to help determine if there are higher-than-normal levels of eosinophils present. A doctor will use symptoms, visual evidence noted during the endoscopies and the pathology report to arrive at a diagnosis.
What is the treatment for eosinophilic enteritis?
Eosinophilic enteritis is often treated by dietary management or steroids. Dietary management may include elimination diets, in which suspected foods or common food allergens are removed, and elemental diets in which all food protein is removed and nutrition is provided through specialized formula. Topical or systemic steroids and/or other medications may be prescribed depending upon which areas of the gastrointestinal tract are involved and the severity of symptoms. Iron supplements may also be prescribed.
In order to evaluate the efficacy of the treatment, periodic endoscopies with biopsies may be necessary.