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: 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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Comment from: RAYZ, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: March 30

I was recently diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis at age 75. I have never been a heavy drinker. My doctor said it was the cause which puts me in an awkward position in denying it. I am now on Zenpep. I also have been on statins for decades and recently read they can cause pancreatitis in certain cases.

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