The Gut Health Blog

National Eosinophil Awareness Week

May 24, 2024

National Eosinophil Awareness Week (NEAW) is the third week of May and aims to educate the public and medical community about eosinophil-associated diseases. In 2024, NEAW will take place from May 19–25. If you're new to the concept of eosinophil-associated diseases, let's break it down in a simple and engaging way

What are Eosinophil-Associated Diseases? 

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell involved in the body's immune response, and an increase in their levels can indicate various conditions, including allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and eosinophilic esophagitis.

Imagine your body as a superhero team fighting off invaders to keep you healthy. One important member of this team is the eosinophil, a type of white blood cell. Now, sometimes, these eosinophils get a bit too enthusiastic and start causing trouble instead of helping out. This can lead to what we call eosinophil-associated diseases.

These diseases involve having too many eosinophils in certain parts of your body, like your esophagus. Your esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach), your lungs, or your intestines. When these eosinophils gather in large numbers, they can trigger inflammation and make you feel unwell.

For example, if you have eosinophilic esophagitis, it's like your esophagus is getting irritated because of an influx of eosinophils, causing symptoms like difficulty swallowing or chest pain. Similarly, eosinophilic asthma means that these cells are causing extra trouble in your airways, making breathing harder at times.

Now, here's the good news: doctors and scientists are working hard to understand these diseases better and come up with ways to manage them. Treatments may involve special diets, medications, or lifestyle changes to help calm down those overenthusiastic eosinophils and keep them in check.

Common Symptoms of Eosinophil-Associated Diseases

Eosinophil-associated diseases can manifest with a variety of symptoms. Of course, it depends on the specific condition and impacted organs. Here are some common symptoms seen in different eosinophil-associated diseases:

  1. Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE):
    • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
    • Chest pain, especially behind the breastbone
    • Heartburn that does not respond to medication
    • Persistent abdominal pain
    • Food impaction (food getting stuck in the esophagus)
  2. Eosinophilic Asthma:
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Wheezing or coughing, especially at night or early in the morning
    • Chest tightness or pain
    • Recurrent asthma exacerbations despite treatment
  3. Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGIDs):
    • Abdominal pain or cramping
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Difficulty gaining weight or unexplained weight loss
    • Blood or mucus in the stool
  4. Hypereosinophilic Syndrome (HES):
    • Fatigue and weakness
    • Skin rashes or itching
    • Shortness of breath
    • Enlarged lymph nodes
    • Swelling in the legs or abdomen
  5. Allergic Diseases involving Eosinophils:
    • Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) with nasal congestion and sneezing
    • Atopic dermatitis (eczema) with itchy, inflamed skin
    • Allergic sinusitis with facial pain and pressure
    • Allergic reactions to food, medications, or insect stings with hives, swelling, or anaphylaxis 

These symptoms may vary in severity. individuals with eosinophil-associated diseases may experience a combination of these signs.

What are the Different Types of Eosinophil-Associated Diseases? 

  1. Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE): A chronic allergic inflammatory condition of the esophagus. Trouble swallowing, reflux, heartburn and chest pains or food stuck in the esophagus? This might be a sign you are suffering of EOE.⁠ Eosinophilic esophagitis is a chronic immune system disease in which a type of white blood cell builds up in the lining of the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach.⁠ EoE is rare and the exact cause of it it’s not yet known. But because it is a newly recognized disease, more people are now getting diagnosed with it.⁠ What causes EOE? It is not clear what causes EOE but symptoms are caused by an immune response to food. ⁠
  2. Eosinophilic Asthma: A subtype of asthma characterized by high levels of eosinophils in the airways. It is often associated with severe asthma exacerbations and may require specialized treatment.
  3. Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGIDs): This group includes eosinophilic gastritis, eosinophilic enteritis, and eosinophilic colitis, which are characterized by high eosinophil levels in the GI tract. With this, people usually have abdominal pain, diarrhea, and malabsorption.
  4. Hypereosinophilic Syndrome (HES): A rare blood disorder. With this, we usually see high levels of eosinophils in the blood, which can lead to organ damage if left untreated.
  5. Allergic Diseases: Conditions such as allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, and allergic sinusitis can also involve eosinophils in the inflammatory response.
  6. Eosinophilic Pneumonia: Inflammation of the lungs due to high levels of eosinophils, leading to symptoms like cough, shortness of breath, and fever.

Awareness, early intervention, and tailored treatment plans are essential for addressing the complexities of these diseases. 


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