Frequently Asked Questions

Allergic Esophagitis

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What is allergic esophagitis?

Allergic esophagitis is a condition that causes your esophagus to swell and narrow when your body reacts to allergens. The esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. An allergen is anything you are allergic to, such as certain foods, dust, or pollen.

What increases my risk for allergic esophagitis?

Anyone can get allergic esophagitis. Some things raise your risk. For example, you have asthma or seasonal allergies, you are male, or you have a family member with allergic esophagitis.

What are the signs and symptoms of allergic esophagitis?

Allergic esophagitis makes it hard to swallow and eat. You or your child may have any of the following:

  • Adults:

    • Throat pain when you swallow.

    • Impaction. This is when food gets stuck in the esophagus.

    • Heartburn or chest pain.

  • Children:

    • Stomach pain.

    • Vomiting.

How is allergic esophagitis diagnosed?

  • Stomach acid medicines: Allergic esophagitis can feel like heartburn. You may need to take stomach acid medicines for 1 to 2 months to see if your symptoms improve.

  • Allergy tests: An allergist uses skin or blood tests to see how your body reacts to certain allergens. The tests may show what is causing your allergic esophagitis. Ask for more information about allergy tests.

  • Barium swallow x-ray: X-rays take pictures of the inside of the esophagus. You will swallow barium in a thick liquid before you have the x-ray. The barium helps any injuries show up better on the x-rays.

  • Endoscopy: Allergic esophagitis may cause your esophagus to narrow and thicken. An endoscopy is used to find any tissue changes. An endoscopy uses a scope to see inside the esophagus. A scope is a long, bendable tube with a light on the end. The scope is placed in your mouth and passed down your throat and esophagus. A camera may be hooked to the scope to take pictures.

  • Biopsy: Tissue samples from your esophagus are collected during an endoscopy. The samples are tested to see if you have allergic esophagitis and to check for any other problems with your esophagus.

How is allergic esophagitis treated?

Allergic esophagitis may not go away completely. Treatment may help relieve your symptoms.

  • Medicines:

    • Steroid medicine: You may take steroid medicine to decrease swelling in your esophagus.

    • Stomach medicine: You may take stomach acid medicines to keep heartburn symptoms under control.

  • Endoscopic dilation: This procedure is done when your esophagus narrows from the swelling. An endoscope is placed into your mouth and down your throat. Tools on the endoscope press against the tissues to widen your esophagus.

What food changes may be needed for allergic esophagitis?

You or your child may need to change what you eat to relieve your symptoms. You may need to see a dietician to help you or your child get the right amount of nutrients.

  • Elimination diet: You or your child may need to stop eating certain foods for a while to see if your symptoms improve. Start eating these foods again one at a time as directed. If certain foods cause your symptoms, you or your child should not eat them. Some common examples are dairy, nuts, eggs, and seafood.

  • Liquid formula: Babies or young children with allergic esophagitis may drink a special liquid formula instead of eating food. The formula has all of the nutrients your child needs to grow and develop. He may need to drink this formula until his symptoms improve. Ask where to get this formula.

What are the risks of allergic esophagitis?

  • The medicines used to treat allergic esophagitis may cause thrush (an infection inside the mouth) or other infections. Over time the esophagus may narrow and thicken. Food may get impacted (stuck) in the esophagus. Treatment to remove the food can lead to life-threatening bleeding, holes, or tears in the esophagus.

  • Without treatment, you or your child may not get the nutrients you need. Your baby or toddler may not grow and develop as he should. You or your child may lose weight.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You or your child has a fever.

  • You or your child has white patches on the tongue and inside the mouth.

  • You or your child loses weight without trying.

  • It is hard to swallow or it hurts to swallow, even after treatment.

  • You have questions or concerns about your or your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek help immediately or call 911 if:

  • Food is stuck in your or your child's throat.

  • You or your child has bad chest pain.

  • You or your child vomits blood.

  • Bowel movements are black and sticky. You or your child may feel weak or dizzy.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan care for you or your child. To help with this plan, you must learn about this condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with healthcare providers. Work with them to decide what care may be used for treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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