What is Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach. The pancreas secretes insulin, which is of fundamental importance in the handling of glucose. If the pancreas is not functioning properly, diabetes may develop.
Another function of the pancreas is to secrete digestive enzymes into the small intestine through a tube called the pancreatic duct. These enzymes help digest fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in food.
In pancreatitis, the enzymes that help digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates in food become active inside the pancreas and start digesting the pancreas.
Symptoms of Pancreatitis
The symptoms of acute pancreatitis usually begins with severe pain in the upper abdomen. The pain may last for a few days. Some of the other symptoms of pancreatitis are: swollen and tender abdomen, sweating, nausea, vomiting, fever, mild jaundice, and rapid pulse.
Types of Pancreatitis
There are two main types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and lasts for a short period of time. It usually resolves. Some people with acute pancreatitis may have more than one attack and recover completely after each. However, acute pancreatitis can be a severe, life-threatening illness with many complications. About 80,000 cases occur in the United States each year. About 20 percent of the cases are severe.
Chronic pancreatitis occurs over a long period of time and does not resolve itself. Chronic pancreatitis results in a slow destruction of the pancreas. The usual cause of chronic pancreatitis is many years of alcohol abuse, but the chronic form may also be triggered by only one acute attack, especially if the pancreatic ducts are damaged. The result of chronic pancreatitis is an inability to properly digest fat caused by a lack of pancreatic enzymes. The production of insulin is also affected.
What causes Pancreatitis?
Acute pancreatitis is usually caused by drinking too much alcohol or by gallstones. A gallstone can block the pancreatic duct, trapping digestive enzymes in the pancreas and causing pancreatitis.
Chronic pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes attack and destroy the pancreas and nearby tissues. Chronic Pancreatitis is usually caused by many years of alcohol abuse, excess iron in the blood, and other unknown factors. However, it may also be triggered by only one acute attack, especially if the pancreatic ducts are damaged.
Complications of Pancreatitis
Some of the complications from pancreatitis are: low blood pressure, heart failure, kidney failure, ARDS (adult respiratory distress syndrome), diabetes, ascites, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, and cysts or abscesses in the pancreas.
Treatments for Pancreatitis
Treatment for pancreatitis depends on how bad the attack is. If no complications in the form of kidney failure or lung problems occur, acute pancreatitis usually improves on its own.
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