The pancreas is the large gland located behind the stomach and next to the small intestine. This part of the body is responsible for various processes, so it is very important to take good care of it and make sure that it will not be infected with any illnesses. One illness that may hinder the proper functioning of the pancreas is pancreatitis. This is a condition that causes pain in the pancreas and may potentially be dangerous for the overall health. Having proper knowledge about the causes, symptoms and, of course, the treatments for pancreatitis is necessary. If you want to learn more, give this article a read!
Pancreatitis: What Is this Condition?
Pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition which affects the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ in our body often forgotten by people. This gland lies just behind the stomach near the top of the abdominal cavity. In spite of its small size, the pancreas has a small number of very significant roles in the body, including food and nutrient absorption as well as digestion.
The pancreas is also important for those who suffer from diabetes, as it is where insulin is made. So, proper pancreatic functioning and health is very crucial.
Now we move on to the illness itself. Pancreatitis occurs when important digestive enzymes, which are beneficial in absorbing food, become activated while it is still in the pancreas. This causes irritation of the gland’s tissues. Furthermore, there is a number of things that may cause premature activation, including smoking, excessive fatty diet, infections, alcoholism and other factors.
Forms of Pancreatitis
There are actually two forms of pancreatitis: the chronic and acute.
- Chronic pancreatitis: this condition is a long-lasting inflammation of the pancreas. It most often occurs after a bout of the other type of pancreatitis. Heavy alcohol drinking is a big factor in this particular form. Damage to the pancreas from heavy alcohol use may not cause any symptoms for years, but there is a tendency for the person to unexpectedly develop severe pancreatitis symptoms.
- Acute pancreatitis: this is the sudden inflammation of the pancreas lasting just a short period of time. This may range from a mild discomfort to a severe and life-threatening illness. Most cases of acute pancreatitis recover entirely after getting the right treatment. However, in some severe cases, longer medication time is needed.
Symptoms of Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis may cause mild to severe pain in the upper abdomen to be in pain. It may suddenly appear or grow over a gradual period. More often than not, the pain may start or get worse after you eat.
Below are some more symptoms of acute pancreatitis:
- Weakness and lethargy
- Tenderness when touching the abdomen
- Waning pain after eating
- Vomiting or nausea
- Abdominal pain, which may radiate up to the back area
In the chronic form of pancreatitis, abdominal pain may also be present, but it is often not that severe. In fact, some people may not feel it at all. The symptoms of chronic pancreatitis may include:
- Oily and foul-smelling stool
- Inadvertent weight loss
- Abdominal pain
Causes of pancreatitis
Normally, the digestive enzymes that are released by the pancreas are not activated to break down proteins and fats until they move to the small intestine. But when these digestive enzymes are activated while in the pancreas, inflammation occurs, leading to pancreatitis.
Some of the main causes of pancreatitis include:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Cystic fibrosis
- Family history
- Chemical exposure
- Various medications
- Abdominal surgery or injury
- High triglyceride levels
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
Treatments for Pancreatitis
For most cases of acute pancreatitis, admission to the hospital is unavoidable. Chronic pancreatitis is usually manageable in an outpatient setting. Furthermore, depending on the underlying cause of the pancreatitis, managing the condition may vary to focus on the specific cause. However, there are generally a number of treatments which are used. First-line treatments for pancreatitis may include:
- Intravenous pain medication.
- IV fluids to help prevent dehydration while fasting.
- Fasting, which is beneficial when resting and recovering from the condition.
- If the condition is because of some obstructing gallstone, a surgical intervention will be needed to remove the gallstone or the gallbladder itself. Furthermore, intervention may also be mandatory to treat or remove the part of the pancreas that is being affected.
- If the cause is alcohol consumption, self-restraint from alcohol and rehabilitation are recommended.
- If it is caused by certain medications or chemical exposure, removing the medication or the offending exposure from your body is recommended.