Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the large gland behind the stomach. Pancreatitis can be acute, chronic, or recurrent.
Acute pancreatitis is sudden inflammation of the pancreas.
People with chronic pancreatitis have persistent inflammation of the pancreas that causes permanent damage.
People with recurrent pancreatitis have repeated acute inflammation.
The main function of the pancreas is to produce digestive enzymes and hormones like insulin that regulate blood sugar.
Most cases of pancreatitis are caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
In addition to excessive alcohol consumption, other causes of pancreatitis are:
- Heredity – Hereditary chronic pancreatitis is a rare genetic disorder that causes a person to develop the disease, usually before the age of 20.
- Genetic causes – Mutations in the cystic fibrosis gene are the most common genetic cause.
- Blockage of the duct that draws digestive enzymes out of the pancreas – When the enzymes don’t drain properly, they can support and damage the pancreas. A blockage can be caused by gallstones, scars from previous surgery, tumors or abnormalities in the pancreas, or the shape or location of the pancreatic duct. If the blockage is detected early, surgery or a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to relieve the blockage can help prevent damage to the pancreas.
- Autoimmune Pancreatitis – For some reason, some people develop
- antibodies that attack their own pancreas.
- Very high blood triglyceride levels.
- Sometimes the underlying cause of chronic pancreatitis cannot be identified.
Signs and symptoms of pancreatitis can vary by type.
Acute pancreatitis signs and symptoms include:
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Abdominal pain radiating to your back
- Abdominal pain that feels worse after you eat
- Fast pulse
- Tenderness when touching the abdomen
Chronic pancreatitis signs and symptoms include:
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Lose weight without trying
- Oily, smelly stool (steatorrhea)
Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes are activated while they are still in the pancreas, irritating the cells in your pancreas and causing inflammation.
With repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis, damage to the pancreas can occur and lead to chronic pancreatitis. Scar tissue can form in the pancreas, causing loss of function. A poorly functioning pancreas can cause digestion problems and diabetes.
Conditions that can lead to pancreatitis include:
- Abdominal surgery
- Certain drugs
- Cystic fibrosis
- High levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia), which can be
- caused by an overactive parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism)
- High levels of triglycerides in the blood (hypertriglyceridemia)
- Injury to the abdomen
- Pancreatic cancer
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), a
- procedure used to treat gallstones, can also lead to pancreatitis.
Sometimes a cause of pancreatitis is never found
Pancreatitis is usually acute or chronic. Necrotizing pancreatitis can result from extreme cases of acute pancreatitis. Treatment for each case of pancreatitis depends on the severity of the symptoms.
Acute pancreatitis is a leading cause of hospitalization for gastrointestinal problems. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), approximately 275,000 Americans are admitted to hospital with acute pancreatitis each year.
The onset of acute pancreatitis is often very sudden. The inflammation usually goes away within days of starting treatment, but some cases may require hospitalization.
Acute pancreatitis is much more common in adults than in children. Gallstones are the main cause of acute pancreatitis in adults.
The disease can also progress to chronic pancreatitis, especially if you smoke or drink alcohol regularly. Learn more about acute pancreatitis.
Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that recurs regularly or occurs over a long period of time.
People with chronic pancreatitis can have permanent damage to the pancreas and other complications. Scar tissue grows from this continuous inflammation.
Pancreatitis can damage cells that make insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas that regulates the amount of sugar in your blood. This leads to diabetes in about 45% of people with chronic pancreatitis.
Long-term alcohol consumption causes about 70% of chronic pancreatitis cases in adults. Autoimmune and genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, can also cause chronic pancreatitis in some people. Find out how to manage chronic pancreatitis.
Severe cases of acute pancreatitis can progress to necrotizing pancreatitis, which refers to the death of cells due to illness. This happens in about 10% of cases of acute pancreatitis, usually when the pancreatitis is left untreated.
Inflammation of pancreatitis can cause digestive enzymes to leak into the pancreas. This can lead to tissue damage and death, leading to necrotizing pancreatitis. Your doctor may order an abdominal ultrasound or a CT scan to diagnose the condition.
If you have necrotizing pancreatitis, your doctor may take a sample of the dead tissue to make sure it has not been infected. If you have an infection, you will likely need to take antibiotics and you may need to remove dead tissue.
Infection of dead tissue increases the risk of death from necrotizing pancreatitis, so it is very important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of necrotizing pancreatitis.
Initial treatments in the hospital may include:
Fast. You will stop eating in the hospital for a few days to give your pancreas a chance to recover.
Once the inflammation in your pancreas is controlled, you can start drinking clear fluids and eating bland foods. In time, you can return to your normal diet.
If your pancreatitis persists and you still experience pain while eating, your doctor may recommend a feeding tube to help you feed.
Painkiller. Pancreatitis can cause severe pain. Your health team will give you medication to control the pain.
Intravenous (IV) fluids. When your body uses energy and fluids to repair your pancreas, you can become dehydrated. Because of this, you will receive extra fluids through a vein in your arm during your hospital stay.
Once your pancreatitis is under control, your health care team can address the underlying cause of your pancreatitis. Depending on the cause of your pancreatitis, treatment may include:
Procedure for removing bile duct obstruction. Pancreatitis caused by a narrowed or blocked bile duct may require procedures to open or widen the bile duct.
A procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) uses a long tube with a camera on the end to examine your pancreas and biliary tract. The tube goes through your throat and the camera sends images of your digestive system to a monitor.
ERCP can help diagnose problems in the bile duct and pancreatic duct and make repairs. In some people, especially the elderly, ERCP can also lead to acute pancreatitis.
Gallbladder surgery. If gallstones caused your pancreatitis, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder (cholecystectomy).
Pancreatic surgery. Surgery may be needed to drain fluid from your pancreas or to remove diseased tissue.
Treatment of alcohol addiction. Drinking several drinks a day for many years can lead to pancreatitis. If this is the cause of your pancreatitis, your doctor may recommend starting a treatment program for alcohol addiction. If you keep drinking it can worsen your pancreatitis and lead to serious complications.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose pancreatitis include:
Blood tests to look for high levels of pancreatic enzymes
Stool tests in chronic pancreatitis to measure fat levels that might suggest your digestive system is not getting enough nutrients
Computed tomography (CT) scan to check for gallstones and assess the extent of inflammation of the pancreas
Abdominal ultrasound to look for gallstones and inflammation of the pancreas
Endoscopic ultrasound to look for inflammation and blockages in the pancreatic duct or bile duct
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for abnormalities in the gallbladder, pancreas, and ducts
Your doctor may recommend other tests, depending on your particular situation.
Factors that increase your risk for pancreatitis include:
Excessive consumption of alcohol. Research shows that heavy drinkers (people who drink four to five glasses per day) are at increased risk for pancreatitis.
Smoke cigarettes. Smokers are on average three times more likely to develop chronic pancreatitis than non-smokers. The good news is that quitting smoking reduces your risk by about half.
Obesity. You are more likely to get pancreatitis if you are obese.
Family history of pancreatitis. The role of genetics is increasingly recognized in chronic pancreatitis. If you have family members with the disease, your chances are higher, especially when combined with other risk factors.
When to see the docter
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have persistent abdominal pain. See a doctor right away if your abdominal pain is so severe that you cannot sit still or find a position that makes you more comfortable.
how much cost
The researchers also looked at the cost of routine care and estimated that the annual cost per patient for pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy was $ 4,114, while the annual cost per patient for diabetes medication was 1,761. $ and the annual cost of pain relievers was $ 614.
Acute pancreatitis usually resolves within a week or two. Solid foods are generally avoided for a while to reduce stress on the pancreas. Supportive measures such as an infusion (infusion) to provide fluids and pain relievers can help relieve symptoms and prevent complications.