Eosinophilia (e-o-sin-o-FILL-e-uh) is the presence of too many eosinophils in the body. An eosinophil is part of a group of cells called white blood cells. They are measured as part of a blood test called a complete blood count. This is also called a CBC. This condition often signals the presence of parasites, allergies or cancer.
If eosinophil levels are high in the blood, it is called blood eosinophilia. If the levels are high in inflamed tissues, it is called tissue eosinophilia.
Sometimes, tissue eosinophilia may be found using a biopsy. If you have tissue eosinophilia, the level of eosinophils in your blood is not always high.
Blood eosinophilia can be found with a blood test such as a complete blood count. Over 500 eosinophils per microliter of blood is thought to be eosinophilia in adults. Over 1,500 is thought to be hypereosinophilia if the count remains high for many months.
Eosinophils play two roles in your immune system:
- Destroy foreign substances. Eosinophils consume matter flagged by your immune system as harmful. For example, they fight matter from parasites.
- Control infection. Eosinophils swarm an inflamed site when needed. This is important to fight disease. But too much can cause more discomfort or even tissue damage. For example, these cells play a key role in the symptoms of asthma and allergies, such as hay fever. Other immune system issues can lead to chronic inflammation as well.
Eosinophilia happens when eosinophils swarm a site in the body. Or when the bone marrow makes too many. This can happen due to many reasons including:
- Parasitic and fungal diseases
- Allergic reactions
- Adrenal conditions
- Skin disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
- Endocrine disorders
Certain diseases and conditions that can cause blood or tissue eosinophilia include:
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
- Ascariasis (a roundworm infection)
- Asthma — a long-term condition that affects airways in the lungs.
- Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
- Churg-Strauss syndrome
- Crohn's disease
- Drug allergy
- Eosinophilic esophagitis
- Eosinophilic leukemia
- Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
- Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease)
- Hypereosinophilic syndrome
- Idiopathic hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES), an extremely high eosinophil count of unknown origin
- Lymphatic filariasis (a parasitic infection)
- Ovarian cancer
- Parasitic infection
- Primary immunodeficiency
- Trichinosis (a roundworm infection)
- Ulcerative colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease)
Parasites and allergies to medicines are common causes of eosinophilia. Hypereosinophilia can cause organ damage. This is called hypereosinophilic syndrome. The cause for this syndrome is often unknown. But it can result from some types of cancer such as bone marrow or lymph node cancer.
When to see a doctor
Often, your care team will find eosinophilia while running blood tests to diagnose symptoms you already have. So, it may not be unexpected. But sometimes it can be found by chance.
Talk to your care team about your results. Proof of eosinophilia along with other test results may pinpoint the cause of your illness. Your doctor may suggest other tests to check your condition.
It's important to know what other health conditions you may have. Eosinophilia will likely resolve with the right diagnosis and treatment.
If you have hypereosinophilic syndrome, your care team may prescribe medicines such as corticosteroids. Because this condition can cause major concerns over time, your care team will check up with you regularly.
Last Updated Sep 8, 2023