Background: Eosinophilic esophagitis in adults is regarded as unusual, being diagnosed mostly in young men presenting with dysphagia. Mucosal furrows are a sentinel endoscopic feature. This study examined the demographic and clinical profile of adults with eosinophilic esophagitis seen from 1981 to 2002.
Methods: All patients from an Australian provincial city (population 198,000) with otherwise unexplained eosinophilic inflammation of the squamous epithelium (>/=30 eosinophils per high-power field) were included in a retrospective review.
Results: A diagnosis of eosinophilic esophagitis was made in 31 patients (24 men, 7 women; mean age 34 years, range 14-77 years). The diagnosis was made in 19 (61%) of the 31 patients during the most recent 2 years (none between 1981 and 1994 vs. 12 between 1995-2000 vs. 19 between 2000-2001). Esophageal mucosal furrows were present in 30 (97%), a finding infrequently recognized before 2001. Dysphagia was documented in 26 (89%). Symptoms had been present for long periods before diagnosis (mean 54 months; range 0-180 months), and diagnosis was delayed in 7 (mean 81 months, range 20-144 months) because sentinel features were overlooked at endoscopy. Strictures, often evident only as a result of mucosal shearing during dilation, were present in 17 (57%). Esophageal dilation preformed in 17 (mean 3.4 dilations per patient, range 1-13) consistently relieved symptoms; tears were recorded in 13 (87%), but no serious complication resulted.
Conclusions: Eosinophilic esophagitis in adults of all ages is more common than recognized. Mucosal furrows are easily overlooked at endoscopy although this finding is an important clue to diagnosis. Strictures, a frequent consequence, can be safely managed by dilation.