Medical Definition of Pancreatitis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas. Of the many causes of pancreatitis, the most common are alcohol consumption and gallstones. Other causes include medications (azathioprine, estrogen, thiazides, metronidazole, valproic acid, and tetracycline), trauma, abdominal surgery, abnormalities of the pancreas and intestine, and infections such as mumps. Acute pancreatitis usually begins with pain in the upper abdomen that may last for a few days. The pain may be sudden and intense, or it may begin as a mild pain that is aggravated by eating and slowly grows worse. The abdomen may be very tender. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and fever. The patient often feels and looks very sick. Chronic pancreatitis usually follows many years of alcohol abuse and may cause pain; malabsorption of food, leading to weight loss; and diabetes, if the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (islet cells) are damaged.

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Reviewed on 12/12/2018

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