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Month: June 2020

Eosinophilic Esophagitis and Link to Other Allergic Conditions

There are at least 4 major groups of allergic manifestations which are as follows:

The relationship between these 4 conditions has actually been very well studied in a model known as the “allergic march” or “atopic march.”

The allergic march describes how children who have early allergic manifestations, such as eczema or food allergies, are at a higher risk of developing other allergic manifestations, specifically respiratory allergies, later in life.

Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) studied the progression of various allergic disorders in a cohort of 130,000 children. They found that children who had eczema and food allergies in early childhood are much more likely to develop respiratory allergies such as allergic rhinitis and asthma later on in life.

Interestingly, their recent analysis also demonstrated that children with skin and respiratory allergies in early childhood are also much more likely to develop eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) later in life. They also found that children with EoE were at a higher risk of developing allergic rhinitis compared with healthy children.

It is now believed by researchers that eosinophilic esophagitis is also a part of the cascade known as the atopic march. This information is important as it demonstrates that we need to be on the watch for symptoms of EoE in highly allergic children, not just adults.

Eosinophilic esophagitis is an inflammatory disorder involving the esophagus (i.e., food pipe). It occurs in about 1 in 2,000 people. The majority of patients with EoE are atopic (i.e., allergic). In normal individuals, there are no eosinophils (i.e., the “allergy” white blood cells) on the inner lining of the esophagus. In patients with EoE, however, there is an accumulation of eosinophils in the esophagus. The presence of eosinophils in the esophagus causes a chronic inflammation in the esophagus since these eosinophils release chemicals into the surrounding tissue. It is the reaction of the tissue in the esophagus to these chemicals that leads to the unwanted gastrointestinal symptoms of EoE. The symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis may include difficulty swallowing (especially solid foods), food-getting- stuck-in-the-throat feeling, esophageal reflux, regurgitation of food, abdominal pain, chest pain, weight loss, poor appetite, and in extreme cases, impaction of food in the esophagus. In children, the symptoms may also include vomiting, feeding difficulties, difficulty eating, irritability, and/or failure to thrive.

In many individuals, food allergies play a role. Specific food allergens will act as triggers and thus cause the undesirable symptoms associated with EoE. In eosinophilic esophagitis, it is more challenging to establish the role of foods since the reactions to foods are usually delayed, as they may develop over days, making it more difficult to identify a specific food as the trigger. The most common food triggers for EoE are milk, wheat, egg, and soy.

Environmental allergies to dust mites, molds, pollens, and animals possibly play a role in eosinophilic esophagitis. For some individuals, their EoE seems to worsen during the pollen seasons in the Spring and Fall.

In addition to allergic rhinitis, asthma, food allergies, and eczema, there are other risk factors for the development of eosinophilic esophagitis. EoE is more common in younger adults (i.e., average age of 34 years old) and is also more common in males (i.e., 65% are males). There may be a genetic predisposition towards the condition in some families.

Confirmation of the diagnosis of eosinophilic esophagitis entails endoscopic biopsy of the esophageal mucus membrane by a gastroenterologist with the demonstration of an excessive accumulation of eosinophils. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the patient should see a board certified allergist such as the ones at Black & Kletz Allergy for food testing. Food testing can be done by skin prick testing and/or blood testing depending on the clinical situation. Skin patch tests may be done in order to detect delayed hypersensitivity to foods. A food elimination diet may be recommended depending on the clinical history. Skin tests to environmental allergens such as pollens may also be performed, especially when the symptoms of EoE exhibit a seasonal pattern.

The treatment of eosinophilic esophagitis may include:

  • Identification of allergenic foods and their restriction in diet
  • Protein pump inhibitor (PPI) medications to reduce acid secretion
  • Swallowed anti-inflammatory medications such as topical corticosteroids
  • Oral corticosteroids may be necessary when the disease is more severe and/or refractory to more conservative treatments
  • Newer anti-inflammatory drugs and biologicals are undergoing research and may be used in the future
  • Dilatation of narrowed portions of the esophagus may be warranted in rare cases of stricture development

The board certified allergy specialists at Black & Kletz Allergy are pleased to answer any questions you may have regarding eosinophilic esophagitis.  Our allergists have been diagnosing and treating EoE and other eosinophilic disorders in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area for more than 50 years.  We have 3 convenient locations in the DC metro area with offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA.  There is on-site parking at each location and both the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible.  There is a free shuttle that runs between our McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line.  To schedule an appointment, please call us at any one of our 3 locations.  Alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day.  Black & Kletz Allergy is dedicated in providing the most up-to-date diagnostic and treatment modalities in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology.

Allergies to Molds

Allergies to molds are very common in the U.S. and around the world. Mold allergies are responsible for a great deal of allergic rhinitis (i.e., hay fever), allergic conjunctivitis, and asthma that affects so many individuals. Molds are fungi that grow in the form of multicellular strands called hyphae.  Fungi that propagate in a single celled atmosphere are called yeasts. Molds can cause both annoying symptoms that are bothersome to an individual as well as more severe symptoms that may result in severe consequences to another individual. There are basically 3 major ways in which molds may affect people. They may cause either infections, allergic reactions, or irritant responses.

Molds or fungi can cause infections in certain individuals. Many times the person who gets infected are immunocompromised or have a “low” immunity. They can be immunocompromised for various reasons which may include immune defects (e.g., common variable immunodeficiency, IgG subclass deficiency, hypogammaglobulinemia, Bruton’s agammaglobulinemia), immunosuppressant medications (e.g., corticosteroids, cyclosporine, tacrolimus, azathioprine, biological monoclonal antibodies), cancer, radiation, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, stress after surgery, and old age, to name a few. Fungi tend to infect the sinuses, lungs, esophagus, brain, bloodstream, eyes, tongue, skin, and nails. One can have a superficial or systemic fungal infection. Systemic fungal infections tend to occur more in immunosuppressed individuals and may be life-threatening. It is important to note that superficial fungal infections of the tongue, nails and skin are common in normal individuals without compromised immune systems. It is the sinuses, lungs, esophagus, brain, bloodstream, and eyes that are more of a problem and tend to occur more in individuals with weakened immune systems. Treatment varies depending on the location and severity of the fungus. Antifungal medications can be given topically, orally, and/or intravenously.

Allergic reactions to molds mainly arise as allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and/or asthma. Allergic rhinitis or hay fever symptoms may include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, itchy nose, itchy eyes, watery eyes, red eyes, puffy eyes, itchy throat, snoring, sinus congestion, sinus headaches, and/or fatigue. Asthma symptoms generally may include wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and/or coughing. As a result of mold allergies, it is not uncommon to develop recurrent or chronic sinus infections or nasal polyps. The diagnosis of allergic rhinitis is made by a board certified allergist like the ones at Black & Kletz Allergy and begins with a comprehensive history and physical examination. Afterwards, allergy testing, usually by skin testing and alternatively by blood testing, is performed in order to determine if allergies are present and causing symptoms in the affected individual. For asthmatics, a pulmonary function test is also done in the office in order to evaluate one’s respiratory status. Occasionally, a chest X-ray is ordered to evaluate the lungs, if necessary. Once the allergens are identified, preventing exposure to the allergens is strongly recommended, if one is able to do so. If one is unable to avoid the offending allergens or avoidance does not alleviate the symptoms, there are a host of medications available to help mitigate the bothersome symptoms. The array of medications to treat allergic rhinitis and/or allergic conjunctivitis may include oral antihistamines, oral decongestants, nasal corticosteroids, nasal antihistamines, nasal anticholinergics, topical antihistamines, topical mast cell stabilizers, topical corticosteroids, topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), leukotriene antagonists, and/or allergy shots (i.e., allergy injections, allergy immunotherapy, allergy desensitization, allergy hyposensitization). Medications used to treat asthma may include inhaled corticosteroids, inhaled beta-agonists, inhaled anticholinergics, leukotriene antagonists, methylxanthines, biologicals [e.g., Xolair (omalizumab), Nucala (mepolizumab), Dupixent (dupilumab)], and/or allergy injections. Allergy shots are very effective and help patients with allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and asthma in 80-85% of the cases. Allergy shots have been utilized in the U.S. for more than 100 years.

Toxic mold syndrome: It should be noted that mold allergies may be responsible for more than half of the cases in the controversial syndrome named “toxic mold syndrome.” The symptoms of toxic mold syndrome range vary greatly and may include runny nose, itchy eyes, red eyes, sore throat, nosebleeds, rash, hair loss, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, urinary tract infections, dizziness, anxiety, insomnia, shakiness, weight loss, inability to focus, lack of concentration, mood swings, fatigue, loss of appetite, and memory loss. Toxic mold most commonly grow on moist walls and is often accompanied by black, brown, or green patches along with a musty odor. The syndrome sometimes is also referred to as sick building syndrome. Some people feel that toxic mold produces spores and chemicals which are released in the air and when inhaled cause the symptoms mentioned above.

Molds may also bother individuals by causing an irritant reaction. To many individuals this irritant reaction mimics an allergic reaction, however, it is not an immunologic reaction and cannot be treated by allergy shots. An irritant reaction occurs when the mold is irritating to a patient, but no allergy exists. Examples of irritant reactions include watery eyes from freshly cut onions or a runny nose after eating hot peppers. In cases of irritant reactions to molds, the best treatment is prevention by avoiding molds. If this cannot be achieved, there are some medications that may help reduce the symptoms of this nonallergic rhinitis. Such medications may include oral decongestants, nasal antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, and/or nasal anticholinergics.

The board certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy diagnose and treat mold allergies in both children and adults and have been doing so for more than 50 years.  Our 3 offices are conveniently located in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA.  We have parking at each location and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible.  If you suspect mold allergies or have hay fever, eye or skin allergies, or asthma, please call us to schedule an appointment.  Alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond back to you within 24 hours of the next business day. The allergy specialists at Black & Kletz Allergy hope to serve your allergy and asthma needs in our state-of-the-art medical facilities while continuing to provide you with a friendly and welcoming environment.