What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach that plays a key part in the digestive process. The gland 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 regulate glucose levels.

The pancreas can become inflamed if the digestive juices, called enzymes, attack the gland itself, causing damage to the tissues of the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be an acute or a chronic condition. Common causes of pancreatitis include gallstones that form in the nearby gallbladder and travel to the pancreas via the common bile duct; long-term, heavy alcohol use; and certain conditions such as cystic fibrosis.

Acute pancreatitis is marked by the onset of severe pain in the upper abdomen that may spread to the back. With proper treatment, acute pancreatitis can be managed and resolved, although the condition and its complications may be life threatening in some cases. About 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year due to acute pancreatitis(Source: NIDDK).

Chronic pancreatitis is a long-term condition that can result in permanent damage. In this condition the pancreas is slowly destroyed until it can no longer produce the important digestive enzymes. Treatment may include a prescription for synthetic pancreatic enzymes.

Acute pancreatitis may start as a minor pain in the abdomen spreading to the back. The pain may intensify and worsen. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as a swollen and tender abdomen, fever, nausea, rapid pulse, and vomiting.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for chronic pancreatitis, but you have mild symptoms that persist, recur, or cause you concern.


What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?

Acute and chronic pancreatitis often present with the same symptoms. Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are ongoing or recurring and may require permanent dietary and lifestyle changes. Symptoms of pancreatitis affect the pancreas and other organs in the digestive system.

Common symptoms of pancreatitis

You may experience pancreatitis symptoms daily or just once in a whil... Read more about pancreatitissymptoms


What causes pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas can become inflamed if the digestive juices it produces, called enzymes, attack the gland itself. Pancreatitis can be an acute or a chronic condition.

Common causes of pancreatitis

Causes of pancreatitis include:


How is pancreatitis treated?

If you have acute pancreatitis, you will be treated in the hospital. Treatment includes antibiotics, administration of intravenous fluids, and medication to relieve pain. Food and drink may be prohibited during this hospital stay to allow your digestive system to rest. If you are Read more about pancreatitistreatments

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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