Eosinophilic Disease










About Eosinophilic Disease



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In this article, discover the causes of eosinophilic disease, how the disease relates to allergies, its symptoms, diagnosis, and appropriate treatment.

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell which are present in the blood. They are also known as leukocytes, oxyphiles, and oxyphils. White blood cells are necessary to help the body protect itself against infections and diseases. Eosinophils will move around in the body, consuming certain bacteria or foreign substances. Eosinophils produce and release various cytokines, which are substances produced by immune cells that have recognized a threat to the body.

Up to 4% of white blood cells are actually eosinophils. They are approximately 12-17 micrometers in size. Eosinophils are normally found in and around the medulla, the lower gastrointestinal tract, lymph nodes, ovary, spleen, and uterus. You would not normally find eosinophils in the esophagus, lung or skin so when it is found here, it can usually be associated with some sort of disease. Eosinophils can circulate within the blood stream for 8-12 hours and can survive another 8-12 days if it has moved out to the tissue.

The bone marrow produces white and red blood cells, including eosinophils. Although produced by the bone marrow, the eosinophils are primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract. After the bone marrow produces eosinophils, circulation is very short and half of the cells move into the tissue during the initial circulation.



Causes of the Disease



An individual will normally have some level of eosinophils in his or her body but when there is an increase in the normal level of eosinophils it is called eosinophilic disease. The root cause is usually associated with an allergic reaction, asthma, or infection. When there is an infection, the eosinophils release toxins that will kill parasites. Unfortunately, the same reaction occurs when someone is suffering an asthma attack, and this can damage the lining of the air passage. For those who suffer from asthma, using an inhaler will stop the eosinophils from collecting in the lungs and help prevent further damage to the lung tissue.

There are two types of asthma that are known to cause an individual to suffer from eosinophilic disease: bronchopulmonary aspergillosis and Churg-Strauss syndrome. Bronchopulmonary aspergillosis is an allergic lung reaction to a type of fungus (e.g. Aspergillus fumigatus). It usually occurs in people who suffer from asthma or cystic fibrosis. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing and occasionally a fever. If an individual does not receive proper treatment, severe lung damage may occur.

Churg-Strauss syndrome is the other rare type of asthma that has very high levels of eosinophils. As with Bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, Churg-Strauss syndrome also appears as ordinary asthma in the beginning stages. The symptoms accompanying this type of asthma includes nerve damage causing numbness or weakness in areas of the body. The eosinophil level plus the other symptoms will help lead to the diagnosis of the disease.

Increased levels of eosinophils can also occur when individuals have a variety of allergic reactions including atopic eczema, hay fever, lactose intolerance, and gluten sensitivity which causes increased levels of eosinophils in the bowel. Depending on where the increased numbers of eosinophils are located, this will define the exact terminology used. For example, in the digestive system it would be considered eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorder; in the alveolar spaces it would be eosinophilic pulmonary disease, or in the esophagus it would be eosinophilic esophagitis.

Other causes of increased levels of eosinophils include exposure to parasites, tumors, skin disorders (i.e. pemphigus), drug reactions, certain diseases (e.g. Loeffler’s Syndrome, polycythemia vera and myelofibrosis), antibody deficiencies, and collagen vascular disorders (i.e. inflammation of blood vessels.






Symptoms



Some of the earlier and less severe symptoms of eosinophilic disease include coughing, wheezing, breathlessness, and numbness. As the eosinophil levels increase, the symptoms can become more severe, resulting in abdominal pain, diarrhea (also known as dysphagia), fever, rashes, weight loss, night sweats, or tissue damage in the affected areas. Symptoms can become very severe and should not be ignored. If symptoms persist and continue to progress, a physician’s advice should be sought as soon as possible.



Diagnosis



Several different methods can be used to diagnose eosinophilic disease. The least invasive diagnostic technique would be blood tests. Skin tests or biopsies can also be used. If spinal fluid needs to be examined for a particular disorder involving high levels of eosinophils, a lumbar puncture may be required.

For individuals who suffer from asthma, eosinophilic disease is not always caught while in the early stages, as the symptoms do not differ from normal symptoms of asthma. It is not until the increased levels of eosinophils have started causing more severe symptoms that doctors will perform skin or blood tests, make a diagnosis, and begin a course of treatment.



Treatment



As with other conditions, physicians will need to ask basic questions to determine the history of the symptoms and potential causes. Detailing to your physician your diet, medications you might be taking, recent travels, and specifics on your symptoms will assist the physician in narrowing down possible causes of eosinophilic disease.

For those individuals who have allergies that are causing the increased levels of eosinophils, determining the offending items and eliminating them from the diet may be adequate treatment on its own. For those with more severe or complicated causes of the disease, antibiotics may be prescribed to minimize the symptoms and eradicate the cause.

Other treatments for eosinophilic disease may include anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids, which are particularly effective in treating the condition. Special note should be made though that steroidal treatment should be avoided for children as high doses of steroids may affect bone growth.



Conclusion



Eosinophils are white blood cells that protect the body from pathogens, and elevated levels of eosinophils are an indicator of eosinophilic disease. High levels of eosinophils may indicate progressive reactions to allergies or the presence of a disease more serious than an allergy. As with all conditions that can have severe reactions, high levels of eosinophils should be taken very seriously and treatment for the particular eosinophilic disease should be sought early.

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