People with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) may run an increased risk of mood disorders, anxiety, and ADHD and should be screened for those conditions, researchers say.
“It’s important to know that there is an elevated risk of those diagnoses, so you have that in mind when you treat your patients. You can assess their quality of life and the status of their mental state,” said lead author Lovisa Röjler, MD, a pediatrician and doctoral student at Örebro (Sweden) University Hospital.
“Psychiatric disorders are not found with a blood sample or radiology examination,” she said in an interview.
The study was published online in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Elevated risk found
Previous studies into the relationship between EoE and anxiety and depression have conflicting conclusions.
In the hope of shedding further light, Dr. Röjler and colleagues analyzed data from Sweden’s ESPRESSO cohort, which consists of more than 6 million biopsy samples from the gastrointestinal tract that were collected from throughout the country during the years 1965-2017.
They identified 1,458 people with EoE who had not experienced psychiatric events before being diagnosed with EoE. Of these, 70% had dysphagia, and 58% had food impaction.
In the study, up to 5 reference persons (6,436 people) without EoE who were identified from the Swedish Total Population Register were matched to the patients with EoE by age, sex, county, and year of diagnosis.
Among the people with EoE, there were 106 events of psychiatric disease, at an incidence of 15.96 per 1,000 person-years versus 10.93 per 1,000 person-years (331 events) among those without EoE. This 50% increased risk for psychiatric illness for people with EoE was statistically significant (hazard ratio, 1.50; 95% confidence interval, 1.20-1.87).
To adjust for genetic and environmental confounding factors, the researchers compared the rate of psychiatric events among 1,055 people with EoE with that of siblings who did not have EoE (1,699 people). There were 74 events of psychiatric disease among the siblings (8.99 per 1000 person-years). From this the researchers calculated a 62% increased risk of psychiatric events for those with EoE (HR, 1.62; 95% CI, 1.14-2.31).
There was no difference in risk for psychiatric disorders by educational attainment, though people for whom there were no data on education were at increased risk.
There was also no difference in psychiatric risk associated with the use of steroids or proton pump inhibitors for EoE, though these medications have sometimes been linked to psychiatric disorders.
After adjusting for inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and asthma, the researchers still found an increased risk of psychiatric events. Also, the people who had EoE were no more likely than the reference persons to have had psychiatric events before their diagnosis, suggesting that EoE caused the psychiatric events rather than the other way around.
Previous researchers have found a similar association with psychiatric illness in people with celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. The researchers speculated that people with EoE might develop psychiatric illnesses because their symptoms and treatments, such as restrictive diets, cause stress and chronic pain and thereby cause problems with education, work, and social and economic status.
Dr. Röjler recommended that clinicians use questionnaires to identify mood disorders and ADHD in their patients and then refer them to a mental health professional.