EGID, or Eosinophilic Gastro-Intestinal Disorders, are a complex and chronic group of digestive system disorders caused by an abnormally raised level of eosinophils within the gastro-intestinal tract. Eosinophils are an important type of white blood cell, which normally help the body fight off certain infections and parasites and are typically involved in attacking the causes of allergic reactions, thus protecting the body. In some individuals, the body produces too many eosinophils in a particular part of the GI tract, which leads to chronic inflammation and can cause extensive tissue damage in that area. It is currently thought that there is both auto-immune and genetic involvement in EGID, but further research will be needed to confirm these links. Like many inflammatory bowel diseases, EGID is a classic waxing and waning condition, meaning that the symptoms and their severity can change on a daily basis.
This family of rare diseases is diagnosed depending on where in the GI tract the elevated eosinophilic count has been found:
- Eosinophilc Oesophagits (EE or EoE) – in the oesophagus and is the most commonly diagnosed form of EGID
- Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis (EG) – in the stomach and/or small intestine
- Eosinophilic Enteritis (EGE) – in the small intestine
- Eosinophilic Colitis (EC) – in the large intestine (colon)
Statistics are not readily available as it was only first recognised during the first half of the 20th century, but over the last 20 years, cases have been recorded in the UK and there are currently in the region of 700 cases looked after at Great Ormond Street Hospital. This suggests around 2,000 diagnosed cases across the UK as a whole and there are also known cases of EGID in other countries, including Australia and Canada, with a starting point of 3,000 people diagnosed in the USA.
Symptoms of EGID include:
- Blood and/or mucous in the stools
- Stomach pains
- Mouth Ulcers
- Asthma attacks
- Sore throat
- Joint Pains
- Failure to thrive
- Sudden weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Excessive sweating/body odour
- Loss of colour in the skin
- Dark rings under the eyes
None of these symptoms is exclusive to EGID and not all are experienced by all patients. We had noticed a number of these with M in the years leading up to his diagnosis and it was the odd combination of them – diarrhoea, poor weight gain, joint pains, mood swings, excessive sweating, body odour and dark shadows under his eyes – that led to our conclusion that this could well be what he had.
As eosinophils are part of the body’s response to allergic reactions, it comes as no surprise that many people with EGID also struggle with a varying level of food and environmental allergies. What makes it even harder is that these allergies can also wax and wane and therefore can change over the years. When M was diagnosed we were asked to put him on a MEWS (Milk, Egg, Wheat, Soya) free diet, which is a common starting point for those with EGID. Over the years, we have also had to remove gluten, potatoes, raisins and raspberries from his diet to try and alleviate his symptoms and we still don’t seem to have the answer to whether this list is complete or not. Some of the lovely families we have met through FABED have had to go a step further and remove all foods from their child’s diet due to a constant flare-up of their EGID. These brave children are now tube-fed an elemental diet in an attempt to help them feel better and grow stronger.
These families have to cope with numerous hospital visits, regular hospital stays, invasive diagnostic procedures such as colonoscopies and endoscopies, tube-feeding, colostomies, huge amounts of medicines daily and the unavoidable emotional fall-out from children who long to be just like their peers.
If you are interested in finding out more about EGID, you can also look at these sites: