Some cases of acid reflux may be another condition

DEPTFORD, N.J.; December 18, 2011

Michael Craig, of Deptford, New Jersey, never had more than the occasional indigestion, until one day during mealtime when he was in the Navy.

"All of a sudden, I felt this - Something was stuck, I couldn't breathe," Michael says.

"I didn't know how to react."

It happened again and again over the years - with no warning, and no clear pattern.

A variety of doctors told him it was acid reflux, or he was eating too fast, or it was stress.

However, tests didn't offer any clear answers, and no medication or treatment solved the problem.

For nearly 2 decades, every meal had a black cloud hanging over it.

His wife, Barbara, describes it, " I know, just by the look, that there's a problem, and then he excuses himself."

An episode at the rehearsal dinner for his daughter's wedding in Hawaii was the last straw.

"I took one bite of dinner, and then had to get up to leave," says Michael.

He was so worried about another episode, he didn't eat till everyone else was done, and it was only a small portion.

Dr. Brian Berberian at Our Lady Of Lourdes Hospital says Michael has E-E- eosinophilic esophagitis -

It's been known among kids, but he thinks it's on the rise among adults -

"I have about 20 patients with it, and i've only been in practice here at Our Lady of Lourdes for 2 years," says Dr. Berberian.

He says he's a little more attuned to it, and may be ale to recognize it a little easier.

"My brother has eosinophilic esophagitis," he notes.

In EE, an allergic reaction causes white blood cells called eosinophils to invade the walls of the esophagus - the tube carrying food to the stomach.

Those walls become inflamed, and the esophagus narrows.

Michael has undergone several procedures to open it up.

Certain foods, or food preservatives may be the triggers.

"There are some studies which show that soy, wheat, eggs, seafood, things like that sometimes have triggered a lot of these attacks," he says.

But research on adult cases of E-E is still in its early stages. The disease as a whole was only first identified in the 1970s.

Dr. Berberian says he uses asthma inhalers to control the allergic reaction. Patients are asked to allow some of the medication to go down their throat.

And he has patients get allergy testing to search for possible triggers.

The only way to find it is with tissue samples, taken during an endoscopic exam.

He recommends people who don't respond to a range of reflux treatments talk to their doctor about getting checked.

For information on adult cases, look at Eosinophilic Esophagitis.

For more information on EE in children, check out Eosinophilic Esophagitis home.

Copyright © 2024 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.