Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition that causes heartburn, abdominal pain, and difficulty swallowing. If you've been given this diagnosis but medications and lifestyle changes haven't worked for you, you may need to be evaluated for eosinophilic esophagitis. The only way this can be done is through biopsies taken during an upper endoscopy by a gastroenterologist. Here's what you need to know about eosinophilic esophagitis, the upper endoscopy procedure, and the treatments that are available. 

What Is Eosinophilic Esophagitis?

Eosinophilic esophagitis is a condition in which an allergic reaction causes an increase in white blood cells which, in turn, causes inflammation in the esophagus. In gastroesophageal reflux disease, the esophagus is also inflamed, but the cause is due to acids irritating the esophagus from stomach contents.

The only way to distinguish the difference in the causation is by taking biopsies of the esophagus with an upper endoscope. The biopsies are taken from several areas of the esophagus so the gastroenterologist can see if there is an unusually high number of white blood cells in the tissue. 

How Is An Upper Endoscopy Done?

An upper endoscopy is a procedure that uses a flexible, long, narrow tube that is inserted into your mouth and down into your esophagus. There are a camera and a light at the end of the tube, as well as a small device to collect sample tissue. You will be asked to lay on your left side and be given sedatives to relax you during the procedure as well as to subdue your natural gag reflex.

Most commonly, an upper endoscopy is done as an outpatient procedure. However, you may be hospitalized for the procedure if you have other medical conditions that may complicate the procedure and/or sedation, such as a heart condition. As with any medical procedure, be sure to discuss the risks with your medical team. 

How Is Eosinophilic Esophagitis Treated? 

If you're diagnosed with â€‹eosinophilic esophagitis, you'll need to have allergy testing done as it is an allergy condition and avoidance of the offending allergen is the preferred treatment. Before allergy testing is done, you'll need to abstain from taking antihistamines for a brief period of time. Consult with an allergist for pre-test instructions.

Depending on your symptoms and the severity of your eosinophilic esophagitis, your gastroenterologist may prescribe an acid blocker to ease your heartburn, abdominal pain, and improve your swallowing. Additionally, you may benefit from prescription liquid steroids that are swallowed to coat the esophagus. 

Contact a gastroenterology clinic for more information.