Eosinophilic disorders can occur in the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. The condition may also be present in the blood, in which case it is called hypereosinophilic syndrome. Eosinophilic pneumonia is a type of disorder that affects the lungs and bloodstream, while eosinophilic fasciitis affects the skin of the body.
An eosinophil is a white blood cell, used by the body to fight off infections. Usually, a healthy human body does not contain many eosinophils in the blood. When the body is fighting an infection, allergy, or parasite, it will produce more eosinophils. The presence of a higher than usual amount of the white blood cells in certain areas of the body is a sign of an eosinophilic disorder.
Usually, eosinophilic disorders are rare. Eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) has been on the rise over the years. When a patient has EE, her esophagus becomes inflamed due to the presence of eosinphils, which usually do not exist in the esophagus. She may have trouble swallowing, experience nausea and vomiting, or have reflux that does not go away with the standard treatments. Corticosteroids or a change in diet can help treat EE.
Other eosinophilic disorders occur elsewhere in the digestive system. Eosinophilic colitis affects the colon, while eosinophilic gastroenteritis affects multiple areas of the digestive tract. The disorder can also impact the stomach or small intestine.
When eosinophils become too prevalent in the blood, hypereosinophilic syndrome occurs. The disorder is commonly diagnosed when a patient has more than 1,500 eosinophils per microliter of blood for a period of six months or more. For a proper diagnosis, there cannot be an outside factor, such as an infection, causing the increase in white blood cells. Symptoms that are common with the disorder include pain and stomach aches, rashes on the skin, and weight loss. The condition is typically fatal unless treated.
Rare eosinophilic disorders include eosinophilic fasciitis (EF) and eosinophilic pneumonia (EP). When a patient has EF, areas of the skin on the front of her legs and insides of her arms are the most likely to be affected. Usually, the skin will become swollen, painful, and inflamed. As the disease progresses, the skin becomes hard and similar in texture to a citrus peel, which makes it difficult to move.
Eosinophilic pneumonia commonly refers to a group of lung diseases in which the number of eosinophils are elevated, either due to conditions such as asthma or certain medications. Inhaling chemical fumes or being exposed to certain fungi can trigger the disorder as well. Some people recover on their own. while others need treatment with corticosteroids.