Benson Pushes to Raise Awareness of Rare Allergy-Related Disorder Affecting Children and Adults

Measure Approved by Assembly Panel this Week would Designate Third Week in May as “Eosinophilic Esophagitis Awareness Week”

Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex) is hoping to raise awareness of a rare, but growing disease by pushing a measure through the state legislature that would designate the third week in May as “Eosinophilic Esophagitis Awareness Week.”

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EE), which is an allergic inflammatory disease characterized by elevated eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) in the esophagus, is a newly recognized disorder that has been increasingly diagnosed in children and adults over the past decade. This increase is thought to reflect an increase in diagnosis as well as a true increase in EE cases.

“Because eosinophilic esophagitis is relatively uncommon, physicians may not encounter it often, leading to a delayed or misdiagnosis, sometimes for years,” said Benson. “Parents of children with EE educated me on the hardships they face with getting their children the nutrition and care they need. I believe this resolution will help us to raise awareness of this disorder and its symptoms. The quicker those affected by it are diagnosed, the more manageable it will be.”

The measure (AR-49), which was approved by an Assembly panel earlier this week, seeks to raise public awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disorder in order to encourage public understanding and support for individuals who are coping with it.

EE affects people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, although males are more commonly affected than females and in certain families, there may be a genetic tendency towards EE. Those suffering from EE commonly have other allergic diseases such as rhinitis, asthma, and eczema.

Symptoms of EE vary from one person to the next and may differ depending on age, but common symptoms include: reflux that does not respond to usual therapy in the form of medicines that stop acid production in the stomach; dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing; food impactions, whereby food becomes lodged in the esophagus; nausea and vomiting; failure to thrive, as exhibited by poor growth, malnutrition, or weight loss; abdominal or chest pain; feeding refusal or intolerance or poor appetite; and difficulty sleeping.

Treatment of eosinophilic disorders varies based on the location of the eosinophils, severity of symptoms, and other medical problems that the patient may have. Although, in most cases there is no cure for the disorder, dietary measures and medications can significantly improve symptoms and control the underlying eosinophilic disease.

Benson pointed out that the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders, along with other patient advocacy groups, has been engaged with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, to develop the first-ever guidelines for health care providers on diagnosing and treating food allergies, which specifically includes EE. These guidelines will provide information to a wide variety of health care professionals on how to diagnose and manage food allergies and treat food allergy reactions.

The measure now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.