Eosinophilia: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

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Triggered by formation and accumulation of eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) in the bloodstream or body tissues, this condition can be life threatening.


What is eosinophilia?

Eosinophilia refers to a condition where there is an abnormally high amount of eosinophils in the blood or body tissues.

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell produced in the bone marrow, and normally found in the bloodstream and gut lining. Eosinophils contain proteins that help the body fight infections, however, in case of some diseases, the proteins present in eosinophils can damage the body.

Causes of eosinophilia

Most common causes of eosinophilia are allergies. It could also be an offshoot of a parasitic infection or occur due in relation to skin diseases.

Want to read more about allergies? Click here.

A few other rare causes include:

  • Lung diseases
  • Inflammation of blood vessels as seen in Churg-Strauss syndrome
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Antibody deficiencies; not usually AIDS
  • Tumours such as lymphoma
  • Rare skin diseases

Signs and symptoms of eosinophilia

Symptoms of eosinophilia are usually that of the underlying cause.

  • Eosinophilia due to asthma is marked by symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing.
  • In the case of parasitic infections one might experience severe pain in the abdomen, diarrhoea, fever, cough or rashes.
  • In case of an allergy due to reaction to a medicine one might notice rashes, itching.
  • Rare symptoms of eosinophilia include weight loss, night sweats, lymph node enlargement, skin rashes, numbness or tingling sensation.

Hypereosinophilic syndrome

This is a condition where there isn’t any apparent cause for eosinophilia. A rather rare condition, hypereosinophilic syndrome, can affect the heart, causing breathlessness and ankle swelling that could potentially lead to heart failure; enlargement of liver and spleen, which can result in swelling of the abdomen and skin rashes.

Diagnosing eosinophilia

A simple blood test can reveal eosinophilia in the bloodstream. In the case of tissue eosinophilia, a skin biopsy of the relevant tissue will confirm it.

Treatment for eosinophilia

After diagnosis, the doctor goes onto establish the cause of the condition in that specific case. A few simple skin or blood tests may be conducted further to confirm specific allergies like pollen or dust mite allergy. Parasitic infection can be determined by analysing blood and stool samples.

You might be questioned about any new medication you could possibly be taking to check if it’s a side effect.

Once the cause has been determined, the treatment is catered to eliminate the underlying condition whether it’s an allergy, medical reaction or parasitic infection.

In the case of hypereosinophilic syndrome, oral corticosteroid therapy (a derivative of natural hormones that the body produces to control inflammatory responses) is prescribed. If that doesn’t work, a chemotherapeutic agent is prescribed.

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