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What Is Pancreatitis?

Share this: Font size: AAA The pancreas is a large gland located behind the stomach and next to the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). The pancreas has two primary functions: 1. To secrete powerful digestive enzymes into the small intestine to aid the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat 2. To release the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream; these hormones are involved in blood glucose metabolism, regulating how the body stores and uses food for energy. Pancreatitis is a disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. Pancreatic damage occurs when the digestive enzymes are activated before they are secreted into the duodenum and begin attacking the pancreas. Recommended Related to Digestive Disorders Bowel Incontinence Bowel incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements. It's a common problem, especially among older adults. Bowel incontinence is usually not a serious medical problem. But it can seriously interfere with daily life. People with bowel incontinence may avoid social activities for fear of embarrassment. Many effective treatments can help people with bowel incontinence. These include: medicine surgery minimally invasive procedures Talking to your doctor is the first step toward... Read the Bowel Incontinence article > > There are two forms of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation that occurs over a short period of time. In the majority of cases, acute pancreatitis is caused by gallstones or heavy alcohol use. Other causes include medications, infections, trauma, metabolic disorders, and surgery. In up to 30% of people with acute pancreatitis, the cause is unknown. The severity of acute pancreatitis may range from mild abdominal discomfort to a severe, lifethreatening illness. However, the majority of people with acute pancreatitis recover completely after receiving the appropriate treatment.

In very severe cases. serious tissue damage. What Causes Pancreatitis? In the majority of cases. What Are the Symptoms of Pancreatitis? Symptoms of acute pancreatitis may include:      Upper abdominal pain that radiates into the back. In some patients. In up to 30% of people with pancreatitis. especially foods high in fat. acute pancreatitis is caused by gallstones and alcohol use. cystic fibrosis. Swollen and tender abdomen Nausea and vomiting Fever Increased heart rate Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis The symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are similar to those of acute pancreatitis. surgery. the cause is unknown. This malabsorption occurs because the gland is not secreting enough enzymes to break down the food normally. Other symptoms may include weight loss caused by poor absorption (malabsorption) of food. the condition is caused by prolonged alcohol use. and kidneys. Chronic pancreatitis Chronic pancreatitis occurs most commonly after an episode of acute pancreatitis and is the result of ongoing inflammation of the pancreas. In many people with chronic pancreatitis. In other cases of chronic pancreatitis. and cyst formation. Damage to the pancreas from excessive alcohol use may not cause symptoms for many years. Other causes include medications. infections. In about 45% of people. infection. the pain may be disabling. high triglycerides. lipid (triglyceride) disorders. Also. resulting in pancreatic damage and scarring. including severe pain and loss of pancreatic function. Other causes include gallstones. or trauma to the abdomen. patients may describe this as a "boring sensation" that may be aggravated by eating. chronic pancreatitis is caused by prolonged alcohol use. lungs. diabetes may develop if the insulinproducing cells of the pancreas become damaged. Severe pancreatitis can also create conditions which can harm other vital organs such as the heart. but then the person may suddenly develop severe pancreatitis symptoms. and certain medicines. Patients frequently experience constant pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to the back. hereditary disorders of the pancreas. acute pancreatitis can result in bleeding into the gland. the cause may . resulting in digestion and blood sugar abnormalities.

be hereditary. however. when malabsorption or diabetes is present. urine. Risk factors of acute pancreatitis include:   Gallstone disease Heavy alcohol consumption Acute pancreatitis may be the first sign of gallstone disease. amylase and lipase. but chronic pancreatitis may occur in females as well. The link between gallstones and acute pancreatitis is the anatomical union of the ducts that drain the gallbladder and pancreas. Risk factors for chronic pancreatitis include:     Prolonged alcohol use Certain hereditary conditions. gallstones. What Are the Risk Factors for Pancreatitis? Pancreatitis can happen to anyone. and stool tests will confirm the progression. High levels of these two enzymes strongly suggest acute pancreatitis. lupus. such as cystic fibrosis Gallstones Conditions such as high triglycerides and lupus People with chronic pancreatitis are usually men between the ages of 30 and 40. it is more common in people with certain risk factors. Diagnosis can be difficult but is aided by a number of techniques such as pancreatic function tests and radiographic imaging of the pancreas. causing an obstruction of the pancreatic duct. blood. Diagnostic tests for pancreatitis include:   Pancreatic function test. How Is Pancreatitis Diagnosed? Pancreatitis is primarily suspected when a person reports symptoms of pancreatitis and also has risk factors such as heavy alcohol use or gallstone disease. the doctor measures levels in the blood of the two digestive enzymes. which causes acute pancreatitis. In more advanced stages of the disease. to determine if the pancreas is producing the appropriate levels of digestive enzymes Glucose tolerance test to measure damage to the cells in the pancreas that make insulin . the cause of chronic pancreatitis is unknown. In about 25% of cases. called the ampulla or major papilla of the duodenum. or high triglycerides. To confirm acute pancreatitis. The passage of gallstones from the gallbladder can become blocked at the ampulla.

or kidneys. After the gallstones are removed and the inflammation subsides.    Ultrasound. Doctors will try to relieve the patient's pain and improve the nutritional and metabolic problems that result from loss of pancreatic function. The surgeon is guided by the laparoscope. An acute attack of pancreatitis caused by gallstones may require removal of the gallbladder or endoscopic surgery of the bile duct. A low-fat diet may also be helpful. unless it is complicated by necrosis or fluid collections in or around the gland.to 10-millimeter) incisions are made in the abdomen.. which transmits a picture of the internal organs on a monitor. Treatment for chronic pancreatitis Chronic pancreatitis can be somewhat difficult to treat. In the ICU. restore drainage of pancreatic secretions. Patients are generally given pancreatic enzymes or insulin. How Is Pancreatitis Treated? continued. The laparoscope and surgical instruments are inserted through these incisions. the pancreas usually returns to normal. if these substances are not being secreted or released by the pancreas. In these cases. or reduce the frequency of attacks. or "minimally invasive. the pancreatitis can be severe and patients may need to be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU). lungs. an exam in which a fine needle is inserted into a localized abnormality of the pancreas to remove a small tissue sample for study. Pancreatic enzyme pills are usually prescribed to be taken with meals to aid in nutrient absorption. small (usually 5. because pancreatitis can cause damage to the heart. In up to 25% of patients. During laparoscopic surgery. and a more rapid recovery. Pancreatic or gallbladder surgery can sometimes be performed as laparoscopic. which can produce images of the pancreas so that abnormalities may be detected CT scan (computed tomography scan). . People with acute pancreatitis are primarily treated with intravenous fluids and pain medications in the hospital. An acute attack of pancreatitis usually lasts only a few days.. Surgery may help relieve abdominal pain." procedures. the patient is closely monitored. treat chronic pancreatitis caused by blockage of the pancreatic duct. The advantages of laparoscopic surgery include smaller incisions. less pain and scarring. which can produce images of the pancreas so that abnormalities may be detected ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) to look at the pancreatic and bile ducts using contrast and X-rays Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and biopsy. less risk of infection. surgery may be necessary to remove the damaged tissue if a secondary infection develops. Some cases of severe pancreatitis can result in death of pancreatic tissue (pancreatic necrosis).

and take the proper medications in order to have fewer and milder attacks of pancreatitis. Can Pancreatitis Be Prevented? Because most cases of pancreatitis are caused by alcohol abuse. . follow their doctor and dietitian's dietary recommendations. In addition. talk to your doctor or health care provider about a referral to an alcohol treatment center. prevention is directed at responsible drinking. you may benefit from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. or no drinking at all.Patients must stop drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking. If heavy drinking is a concern.