What causes pancreas symptoms?

Pancreas symptoms occur when the pancreas is diseased or has sustained damage or injury. The most common cause of pancreas symptoms is pancreatitis. This is an inflammation of the pancreas that occurs when digestive juices produced by the pancreas, called enzymes, attack the gland itself and damage the tissues. Pancreas symptoms can be related to acute conditions or chronic conditions.

Pancreas symptoms most commonly affect the abdomen, resulting in pain, cramping, and swelling or distention. Other pancreas symptoms include fever, low back pain, nausea, vomiting, and yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Common causes of pancreas symptoms

Causes of pancreas symptoms include:

  • Abdominal injury or trauma
  • Adverse effects of drugs such as steroids
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Complications of medical procedures such as imaging studies of the bile ducts
  • Cystic fibrosis (hereditary disease characterized by buildup of abnormally thick, sticky mucus in the lungs and other organs)
  • Drug allergy such as allergy to penicillin or codeine
  • Gallstones
  • Hypercalcemia (high level of calcium in the bloodstream)
  • Hyperlipidemia (high level of fats in the bloodstream)
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pancreatic pseudocyst

Questions for diagnosing the cause of pancreas symptoms

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your pancreas symptoms including:

  • How long have you had your pancreas symptoms?
  • Where do you feel the pain?
  • Have you recently had an abdominal injury or trauma?
  • How much alcohol do you drink?
  • Have you been tested for diabetes?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you currently taking?

What are the potential complications of pancreas symptoms?

Complications of untreated or poorly controlled pancreas symptoms can be serious and even life threatening in some cases. Because most pancreas symptoms are related to pancreatitis, you can prevent or reduce your risk of developing pancreatitis by avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol and fatty or greasy foods. Proper management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hereditary disorders including cystic fibrosis, can also limit pancreas symptoms.

You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of pancreas symptoms include:

  • Adverse effects of treatment
  • Development of diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)
  • Malabsorption
  • Malnutrition
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pseudocyst (development of fluid collections in the pancreas that may cause bleeding or infection)
  • Severe discomfort or pain
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection
  • Surgical removal of the pancreas


  1. Pancreatitis. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/pancreatitis/.
  2. Understanding pancreatitis. American Gastroenterological Association. http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/pancreatitis.
  3. Tierney LM Jr., Saint S, Whooley MA (Eds.) Current Essentials of Medicine (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.

What are the signs of pancreas problems?

Pancreas symptoms occur when the pancreas is diseased or has sustained damage or injury. The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach that plays a key part in the digestive process. The pancreas secretes digestive juices into the small intestine, and these juices break down food. The pancreas also releases insulin and glucagon, two hormones that help the body process energy from food.
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What other symptoms might occur with pancreas symptoms?

Pancreas symptoms may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Symptoms that may occur along with pancreas symptoms

Pancreas symptoms may accompany other symptoms including:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

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