What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas and is classified in two ways: acute and chronic.

Acute pancreatitis is characterized by the onset of severe abdominal pain. It usually begins with gradual or sudden pain in the upper abdomen that sometimes extends through the back. The pain may be mild at first and worsen after eating. Pain may also become severe and last for several days. A person with acute pancreatitis usually looks and feels very ill and needs immediate medical attention.

Chronic pancreatitis is abdominal pain that worsens over time. Most people with chronic pancreatitis experience upper abdominal pain, although some people have no pain at all. The pain may spread to the back, feel worse when eating or drinking, and become constant and disabling. In some cases, abdominal pain goes away as the condition worsens, most likely because the pancreas is no longer making digestive enzymes.

What causes Pancreatitis?

In the past, it was thought that excessive drinking led to pancreatitis. But only a small percentage of alcoholics will go on to develop pancreatitis. More common causes for pancreatitis including:

  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Gallstones
  • High triglycerides
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Injury to the abdomen

What are the Symptoms of Pancreatitis?

Common symptoms of acute and chronic pancreatitis include abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatty stools, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, elevated heartbeat, excessive thirst, and fatigue.

What is the Treatment for Pancreatitis?

Treatment will depend on the cause of your pancreatitis but may include options such as prescription medication or enzymes. More serious forms of pancreatitis may require gallbladder surgery, pancreatic surgery, or procedures to remove bile duct obstructions.

Recognizing and eliminating the underlying cause of pancreatitis is essential. Genetic testing is now frequently implemented and coupled with genetic counseling. When genetic mutations are recognized, we sometimes offer complete removal of the pancreas with autotransplantation of the insulin-producing cells to prevent diabetes. This radical surgery is offered only to patients with a debilitating disease.

Have questions about pancreatitis?

Schedule an Appointment

Prevention & Treatment

Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS)

A procedure that uses an ultrasound to examine the GI walls, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and lungs. Learn more about this procedure and schedule an appointment with a Gastro Health physician at a convenient location.

Learn More