Pancreatitis - Causes

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What are the causes of pancreatitis?

Normally, digestive enzymes released by the pancreas are not activated to break down fats and proteins until they reach the small intestine. However, when these digestive enzymes are activated while still in the pancreas, inflammation and local damage to the pancreas occurs leading to pancreatitis.

The causes of pancreatitis include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Gallstones
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Abdominal injury or surgery
  • Certain medications
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • Smoking
  • Family history of pancreatitis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pancreatic cancer

Alcohol consumption and gallstones account for over 80% of all cases of pancreatitis in the US.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Sgal, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: March 27

I have chronic pancreatitis due to having an auto-immune disease but it started with my gallbladder. I'm not a drinker at all. In March 2012, I got very ill after eating a chicken sandwich. The gas pain was so bad I took everything we had in the house with no relief. That night we went to the emergency room (ER) where they told me I had the flu. Exactly a week later, I was back in the ER again with the same pain. After having an ultrasound they couldn't even make out my gallbladder because of inflammation. They stuck a tube in my right side to bring down the inflammation and wanted me to go home for 6 weeks. I insisted they do surgery which they did after 3 days and found 32 stones. My gallbladder and the stones were removed but a month later when I was still having pain, they did another scan and found psuedocysts and 4 more stones that backed up into my pancreas. I lost 60 lb. and spent a total of 32 weeks on and off in the hospital due to nutrition problems because of feeding tube issues which were changed multiple times and spent 5 days in the ICU from C. Difficile. The doctors weren't sure I was going to live. Every few months I end up in the hospital because of dehydration and psuedocysts. I don't find that the enzymes work well and pain medicines dull the pain but it never quite goes away. I do not wish this on anyone. I can't enjoy going out for dinner and most of my meals are protein shakes. Best of luck to those who have this disease.

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Comment from: febber, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 22

I have just experienced pancreatitis. Pain started at about 10 am at work with pain at the top of my stomach (where it meets the breast bone) and in the middle of my back. I thought I had bad indigestion but I had a light breakfast and a few sips of coffee. It got gradually stronger and I thought I hope it's not a heart attack. I became very clammy, breaking into a sweat and felt very unwell. I had no nausea or vomiting, just strong pain. I've had gallstones for 30 years but no attack in at least 15 years. This was not feeling like a gall attack. My experience with gall attacks was acute intense pain (like 3rd stage labor that never ends) and vomiting. This was different. I took 2 paracetamol pills but it did not help. After a couple of hours a co-worker took me to hospital emergency where they gave me antacid which did not help. When the pain did not go they did and ECG which said my heart was ok. Then they took blood and gave me intravenous fluids. The pain went away. Blood tests showed I had pancreatitis. The doctor suggested I have my gallbladder removed that afternoon as the pancreatitis had settled and I was otherwise in good health to have the surgery. I am on day 3 post surgery and feeling ok. I am a bit sore in the belly button but not feeling too bad. Just reeling a bit from the turn of events.

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