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Pancreatitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

    Pancreatitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

    The pancreas is an important organ that helps with digestion and keeps our blood sugar levels under control. Pancreatitis is one of the common problems that people can have with their pancreas.

    But what exactly is pancreatitis, what causes it, and how can it be treated?

    What is pancreatitis?

    Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. The most common symptom of pancreatitis is a persistent pain in the abdomen.

    This condition has 2 main types, acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis.

    Acute pancreatitis

    Acute pancreatitis is when the pancreas becomes inflamed. The onset of this condition is usually sudden, and people can feel a sharp pain in their abdomen without any warning.

    The inflammation usually happens because the enzymes that the pancreas releases damage the pancreas itself. This could be the result of an injury to the pancreas, such as blunt trauma, or the result of alcohol abuse.

    Another possible cause of inflammation is due to gallstones. It’s possible for gallstones to migrate to the pancreas, which can cause a blockage in the pancreatic ducts. Because the flow of enzymes are blocked, this causes inflammation and starts to damage the pancreas.

    For mild and moderate cases, the symptoms tend to go away after a few days. But it’s possible for the condition to last for longer than that, or to recur after a few weeks.

    It’s also possible for it to develop into chronic or persistent pancreatitis, which can cause more damage to the organ.

    4 Warning Signs of Pancreatitis

    Chronic pancreatitis

    In this form of pancreatitis, the inflammation lasts much longer, and the progression of the disease can take years.

    What happens is that over time, the pancreas get damaged, causing it to have impaired function. If damage to the pancreas is not stopped, it starts to cause severe pain and it eventually stops working .

    Alcohol abuse is by far the most common cause of this type of inflammation, especially in patients who have been drinking for years.

    However, it’s also possible for this form of pancreatitis to be a hereditary condition. Cystic fibrosis mutations can also cause inflammation in the pancreas, as well as autoimmune disease.

    Similar to acute pancreatitis, the most common symptom is severe pain in the abdomen. However, the main difference is that the pain tends to last longer if it’s chronic, and there is a tendency for symptoms to recur over time.

    Patients can also experience fatigue, sudden weight loss, and greasy stools, because their body is no longer digesting their food properly.

    pancreatitis

    What forms of treatment are available?

    If you think that you might have pancreatitis, it would be best to avoid any food or drink until you can see a doctor. This is because whenever you eat or drink, your pancreas would secrete enzymes into your digestive system.

    If there’s an inflammation, then this can cause severe pain and discomfort.

    Medication

    Medication for pancreatitis varies depending on what the type is, as well as the root cause.

    In most cases, painkillers are given not to treat the disease, but to mitigate the symptoms. In some cases, antibiotics might be given if doctors have found that an infection is causing the inflammation.

    Surgery

    Doctors can also perform surgery to help treat the inflammation. In most cases, gallstones might be taken out to remove the blockage in the pancreas.

    If it’s a more severe problem, some parts of the pancreas might be removed, or the entire pancreas is taken out entirely. In case of the latter, patients usually need to take insulin shots as well as digestive enzymes for the rest of their lives

    Key Takeaways

    When it comes to pancreatitis, take note of your symptoms. Keeping track of them to help your doctors better diagnose your condition, and figure out what forms of treatment can be given.

    Learn more about Digestive Health here.

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    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Sources

    Pancreatitis inflammation, https://medlineplus.gov/pancreatitis.html#:~:text=Pancreatitis%20is%20inflammation%20of%20the,a%20few%20days%20with%20treatment., Accessed December 11, 2020

    Pancreatitis – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20360227, Accessed December 11, 2020

    Symptoms & Causes of Pancreatitis | NIDDK, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/pancreatitis/symptoms-causes, Accessed December 11, 2020

    Acute Pancreatitis – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/acute-pancreatitis-a-to-z, Accessed December 11, 2020

    Chronic Pancreatitis – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/chronic-pancreatitis-a-to-z, Accessed December 11, 2020

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    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated May 25, 2021
    Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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