If you have fibromyalgia, you’ve no doubt struggled with the chronic muscle pain and fatigue. But you may have also noticed another, less common symptom: esophagitis. Esophagitis is a condition where the lining of the esophagus becomes inflamed. There are a lot of different reasons that people with fibromyalgia suffer from esophagitis, including a condition called eosinophilic esophagitis.
So, what is eosinophilic esophagitis? What exactly is the link between esophagitis and fibromyalgia? And what can you do to treat it?
What Is Eosinophilic Esophagitis?
Eosinophilic esophagitis is a condition where the immune system begins to attack the lining of the esophagus. This is caused by a type of immune cell called eosinophils. These cells play an important role in destroying foreign bacteria and preventing you from getting sick. But they can also build up in the tissue of the esophagus, which leads to inflammation.
As the esophagus gets more inflamed, it can make it difficult to eat as the esophagus narrows. And it can also lead to chronic pain in the chest as the inflamed tissue is often very tender. The symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis are generally pain in the esophagus and chest and difficulty swallowing.
There are a lot of different things that can cause the body to produce too many eosinophils like allergic reactions, skin condition, parasitic infections, and some forms of cancer. But the most common reasons that someone with fibromyalgia develops the condition is an autoimmune condition or something called gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Esophagitis and Fibromyalgia
Having fibromyalgia makes you more likely to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a condition where the acid in the stomach washes back up into the esophagus. Over time, this acid damages the lining of the esophagus. This causes immune cells to build up in the tissue, which over time can lead to eosinophilic esophagitis.
In addition, we know that having fibromyalgia also makes you more susceptible to autoimmune diseases. This could be behind the link between the two conditions since esophagitis is often caused by systemic autoimmune conditions. It’s hard to say why exactly fibromyalgia makes you more likely to develop autoimmune conditions. But the answer could be stress. We know that chronic stress makes you more likely to develop these kinds of conditions.
And it could be that the stress of having fibromyalgia might make you more likely to develop autoimmune conditions like esophagitis. But regardless of what the link is, if you’re suffering from the condition, you probably want to know how you can treat it.
How Can You Treat It?
The first step in treatment is getting a diagnosis. And the way that doctors usually diagnose this condition is a procedure called an endoscopy. Essentially, the doctor inserts a long, flexible camera down the esophagus to examine the tissue for signs of inflammation. In addition, the doctor can check the tissue for the presence of eosinophils.
There are a few different treatment options. The first is something called corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are a type of hormone that your body naturally produces in response to inflammation. The hormone signals your body to shut off the inflammation response. But doctors can also prescribe synthetic corticosteroids to help your body fight the inflammation.
In addition, doctors can prescribe something called a proton pump inhibitor. These medications reduce the amount of stomach acid that your body produces, which means that it won’t wash back up into your esophagus and cause further inflammation. Many patients respond positively to proton pump inhibitors and notice a marked decline in the severity of the inflammation and pain.
In addition, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make that will help manage your condition. The best thing to do is to focus on your diet. Eliminating certain foods from your diet will help limit the amount of stomach acid your body produces. Avoid chocolate, meat, and spicy foods, as they all trigger the production of acid in your stomach.
Finally, losing weight is often an effective treatment. Maintaining a healthy weight and diet have been shown to significantly reduce the effects of esophagitis. Of course, getting enough exercise is hard when you suffer from fibromyalgia. The chronic pain and fatigue often leave you feeling drained. And too much exertion can trigger painful fibro flares. The best thing to do is to take it easy and start with a little bit of extra exercise and stop if you find it is too uncomfortable.
So, have you suffered from esophagitis? How did you treat it? Let us know in the comments.