- What Is
- Who Can Get It?
- Signs and Symptoms
- Complications and Side Effects
What is pancreatitis?
You can usually cure acute cases of pancreatitis with proper treatment and changes in diet. While a doctor cannot always cure chronic cases of pancreatitis, treatment options can help you manage your symptoms.
Pancreatitis is a common condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed, which causes swelling.
The pancreas is part of your digestive system near your stomach and liver. It produces digestive enzymes that help your body absorb and digest food. Pancreatitis occurs when these enzymes overproduce and damage the pancreas, causing inflammation.
There are three different types of pancreatic enzymes:
- Lipase: This enzyme works to break down fat in your diet. If your body doesn’t produce enough lipase, you won’t be able to absorb fat
- Protease: This enzyme breaks down proteins and helps to protect you from bacteria and yeast that end up in your digestive tract
- Amylase: This enzyme processes starches and turns them into sugar to use for energy
Pancreatitis can be:
- Acute: This is essentially a one-time case of pancreatitis. The condition may become apparent over hours or a couple of weeks
- Chronic: This means that the inflammation will persist for years, even with treatment
Causes of pancreatitis
- Family history: Pancreatitis can be a hereditary condition. If genes are a factor, your pancreatitis may be chronic
- Genetics: If you have the cystic fibrosis gene, a specific mutation can cause pancreatitis
- Blockage: The pancreas releases enzymes into the small intestine for digestion, but sometimes this opening can get blocked. If something stops the enzymes from getting released, they can back up into the pancreas and cause inflammation
- Autoimmune disorders: Some people with autoimmune disorders may develop antibodies that attack the pancreas
Who can get pancreatitis?
Anyone with a history of drinking alcohol or smoking is at a higher risk for developing pancreatitis. However, anyone can suffer from this condition.
If you are diagnosed with pancreatitis before the age of 20, your pancreatitis is most likely chronic. This means that there is an increased chance the condition will continue to impact you repeatedly throughout your life.
How do you know you have pancreatitis?
Abdominal pain is common in many cases. However, if your pain is intense and lasts longer than 30 minutes, you must seek medical treatment. The main symptom of pancreatitis is severe abdominal pain, sometimes accompanied by uncontrollable vomiting.
Other common symptoms include:
Diagnosis for pancreatitis
Your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms and will look at your recent medical history. They may ask questions about your diet, alcohol consumption, and history of smoking.
If your doctor suspects pancreatitis, you may need to complete additional tests to confirm your diagnosis, including:
- Blood tests to measure the levels of enzymes produced in the pancreas
- A CT scan, which can determine if there is swelling of the pancreas or a buildup of fluid in your abdomen
- An ultrasound, which your doctor may use if they suspect you have gallstones
- A stool sample, which can help determine if your body isn’t digesting food properly
Treatments for pancreatitis
If you have chronic pancreatitis, you can expect to experience pancreatic attacks again in the future.
Hospitalization is standard during one of these episodes, because medication can’t stop an attack once it starts. Your doctor may not allow you to eat or drink while in the hospital so your pancreas has time to heal and begin working correctly again.
If you have gallstones, your doctor may want to perform surgery to remove your gallbladder. This will lessen your risk of future attacks.
Similarly, if a scan or test shows that there is a significant fluid buildup in your pancreas, you will need pancreatic surgery. A surgeon can drain the inflamed fluid, allowing your pancreas to heal quicker.
If you receive a diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis, your treatment plan will include:
Possible complications and side effects
Since there’s no cure for pancreatitis, you should follow your treatment plans closely. The greatest risk is straying from the diet that your doctor has outlined for you. Since you may not feel like you have any problems between episodes, it is easy to think that a bad choice once in a while won’t have consequences.
With the right combination of medication and diet changes, you can easily lower your risk of experiencing attacks in the future. You can achieve this by limiting things in your diet that can upset the enzyme balance in your pancreas.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Columbia Surgery: "Pancreatitis."
Harvard Health Publishing: "Pancreatitis Overview."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "The Digestive Process: What Is the Role of Your Pancreas in Digestion?"
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Treatment for Pancreatitis."
Top What Can Cure Pancreatitis Related Articles
Are Pancreas Transplants Successful?As per research, pancreas transplants are considered successful. Based on 2004-2015 data, patient survival rates for different subtypes of pancreatic transplant ranged from 96 to 99% at 1 year, 89 to 91% at 5 years, and 70 to 80% at 10 years postoperatively.
What Foods Should You Eat While Recovering From Pancreatitis?What is pancreatitis and how can you treat it? Learn what foods you can eat while recovering and what preventive measures you can follow to keep this condition at bay.
Is Pancreatitis Life Threatening?Yes, pancreatitis is a life threatening condition if left untreated. Severe recurrent pancreatitis may cause blood and fluid loss causing life threatening conditions such as multi organ failure. The range of disease is from self-limiting to fatal, with an incidence and mortality rate that increases with age.
Pancreas PictureA fish-shaped spongy grayish-pink organ about 6 inches (15 cm) long that stretches across the back of the abdomen, behind the stomach. See a picture of the Pancreas and learn more about the health topic.
Acute and Chronic PancreatitisPancreatitis is a rare disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. There are two types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Symptoms of pancreatitis include abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and a rapid pulse. Treatment of pancreatitis often requires hospitalization.
Pancreatitis QuizWhat does the pancreas do, and what happens in the body that causes pancreatitis? Test your medical IQ of pancreatitis with this quiz!
Pancreatitis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and TestsPancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas develop swelling due to the destruction of the pancreatic tissue by its own enzymes. Digestive enzymes travel from the pancreas to the small intestine through the pancreatic duct.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From a Pancreas Surgery?Laparoscopic pancreatectomy can be used in the treatment of a number of different conditions which include tumors and severe pancreatitis.
Symptoms of Your Pancreas Not Working ProperlyPain in the upper abdomen is the most common symptom. It spreads to the back and worsens while eating and drinking. Sometimes, the diseases of the pancreas may produce a few symptoms or no symptoms at all. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose in the early stages due to the lack of symptoms.
What Are the Warning Signs of Pancreatitis?What is pancreatitis, and how do you recognize pancreatitis symptoms? Learn the warning signs of acute and chronic pancreatitis, when to see a doctor, and how to treat pancreatitis.
What Is the Function of the Pancreas in the Body?A healthy pancreas produces substances that are required for digestion and the breakdown of food.
What Is the Success Rate of a Pancreas Transplant?More than 95% of people survive the first year after a pancreas transplant. Organ rejection occurs in about 1% of the patients. The survival rate decreases to 92.5% at three years. The risk of death from the surgery itself is low and happens in less than one in 100 cases.