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What are Eosinophils?

Eosinophils (eos) are white blood cells and are a component of your immune system which normally play a role in fighting parasitic infections. They can also play a role in allergic diseases as well.

There can be a variety of triggers causing the eosinophils to migrate to different parts of the body in unaffected patients.   More common conditions which can present with increased eosinophils included include allergies (environmental and food), asthma, eczema, parasitic infections, medications or inappropriate production of chemicals attracting eosinophils to these areas. 

In patients with eosinophilic diseases, eosinophils are inappropriately called to areas which normally do not contain eosinophils or present in areas that do contain eosinophils, but do so significantly exaggerated numbers.  It is thought that these eosinophils then cause damage by releasing inflammatory chemicals, normally intended for infectious organisms, on normal body tissues.

What are some types of eosinophilic disorders?

Eosinophilic diseases can present with significantly exaggerated eosinophil numbers in several ways:

  • Eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease in the digestive tract (EGID)
    • Eosinophilic esophagitis (EE or EoE), eosinophils presenting in the esophagus
    • Eosinophilic gastritis (EE or EoE), eosinophils presenting in the stomach
    • Eosinophilic enteritis (EE or EoE), eosinophils presenting in the esophagus
    • Eosinophilic colitis (EE or EoE), eosinophils presenting in the colon
  • Hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES) increased eosinophils in the blood and other organs such as heart or lungs
  • Churg-Strauss where eosinophils present in blood vessels causing injury in various organs containing these affected blood vessels.

What are some forms of treatment for eosinophilic disorders?

Eosinophilic diseases are an emerging and quickly expanding field of study. Testing for diagnosis and therapies are evolving and can change quickly with new information rapidly becoming available. Currently, diagnostic testing involved in eosinophilic diseases includes a thorough history and physical exam and may include blood work, skin prick testing for allergies, patch testing for allergies, endoscopy or colonoscopy, and lung tests.

Treatments may include dietary modification, formulas, systemic steroids (prednisone or methylprednisone), oral steroids (fluticasone or budesonide), or leukotriene/mast cell agents (cromolyn or monteleukast).  New therapies are emerging as well.




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