Pancreatitis: Symptoms, Causes, And Potential Complications

Date November 17, 2017

What is pancreatitis?

Pancreas is a large gland that sits behind the stomach. Its main function is the production of enzymes that aid digestion and hormones (insulin and glucagon) that regulate blood sugar. Inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 210,000 people in the U.S. are admitted to the hospital with acute pancreatitis annually.

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?

Symptoms of acute and chronic pancreatitis may somewhat differ. Symptoms of the acute type of the condition include:

- pain in the upper abdomen;

- abdominal pain that radiates to your back;

- abdominal pain that gets worse after eating;

- swollen and tender abdomen;

- fever;

- nausea and vomiting;

- increased heart rate.

Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are similar to those of acute pancreatitis and also include:

- weight loss;

- oily, smelly stools (steatorrhea).

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What are the causes of pancreatitis?

The most common cause of pancreatitis is heavy drinking. Other factors that raise the risk of the condition include the following:

- gallstones;

- cystic fibrosis;

- use of certain medicines;

- infection;

- trauma to the abdomen;

- abdominal surgery;

- family history of pancreatitis;

- autoimmune diseases;

- hypercalcemia (excessive levels of calcium in the blood);

- hypertriglyceridemia (excessive levels of triglycerides in the blood).

In some cases, it’s impossible to establish the cause of pancreatitis.

What are the complications of pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis can lead to a number of complications, such as the following:

- pancreatic infection;

- pseudocysts (accumulations of fluid and tissue debris), which may affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs if left untreated;

- kidney failure;

- breathing problems;

- diabetes, if damage to the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas occurs;

- malnutrition, caused by the lack of enzymes;

- pancreatic cancer.

Is there a way to prevent pancreatitis?

While it’s impossible to eliminate the risk of pancreatitis altogether, there is a way to dramatically reduce it – limit alcohol consumption. Eating a low-fat diet and more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein is also recommended.

Source: HealthLine, Mayo Clinic, WebMD

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This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.