When Benjamin Barber was a baby, his mom knew something was wrong. He would turn away from his milk bottle, letting the liquid run down his face. He remained unenthused about food as he grew, refusing to eat and falling far behind the growth curve. When he did eat, he would often grimace and vomit.
Ben is one of a growing number of people with eosinophilic esophagitis (referred to as EE or EE). The condition has only recently been identified and is estimated to affect 1 in 2,000 people. For a long time, people simply passed it off as reflux, but the medical community now acknowledges it as a chronic immune system disease characterized by inflammation of the esophagus.
EE is associated with a number of symptoms:
- Refusal to eat (leading to failure to thrive)
- Vomiting with meals
- Stomach pain
- Pain when swallowing
- Food getting stuck in the throat (food impaction)
Eosinophilic esophagitis is usually the result of food allergies. Steroids and acid blockers are commonly used as a treatment for EE. However, these medications can have side effects and only bring temporary relief.
Since EE is linked to allergies, doctors look to allergy immunotherapy to bring lasting relief. With immunotherapy, patients are exposed to antigen that can help the body develop an immunity to symptom-triggering allergens. The antigen can be taken through under-the-tongue allergy drops (known as sublingual immunotherapy) which can treat for both pollen and food allergies. (Food allergies are more closely linked with EE).
If left untreated, EE sufferers may develop scar tissue in their esophagus that could make swallowing difficult. Young children with EE may refuse food, fail to gain appropriate amounts of weight, and miss important feeding milestones that could take extensive therapy to re-teach.
If you or someone you know would potentially benefit from eosinophilic esophagitis treatment, talk to a physician about how oral allergy drops can help.