Inflammation of the pancreas due to digestive enzymes is known as pancreatitis. Your pancreas produces digestive enzymes that become active when they get to the small intestine. They help your body to break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates during the process of digestion. Sometimes the enzymes become active in the pancreas and this will cause acute or chronic bouts of inflammation.
If you are experiencing abdominal pain that is anywhere from mild to severe then you may have pancreatitis. The pain may radiate through your abdomen to your back. It is also possible that you will experience nausea and vomiting. Chronic and acute pancreatitis may both produce these symptoms.
Other possibilities that can be experienced with acute pancreatitis is a swollen and tender abdomen, fever, and increased pulse rate. Dehydration and low blood pressure can be caused by this. In severe cases, heart, lung, or kidney failure could occur. Acute pancreatitis may also result in bleeding which can be fatal.
Symptoms can be different if you suffer from chronic pancreatitis because of the long-term nature of the condition. Chronic pancreatitis can cause you to lose weight as the body is unable to digest properly. This can also result in fatty stools. Eventually the pancreas will stop producing digestive enzymes completely and you may stop having abdominal pain. Diabetes can develop if the pancreas stops producing insulin.
Causes of Pancreatitis
There could be various contributing factors but the most common cause of pancreatitis is the consumption of too much alcohol. Drinking too much can cause both acute and chronic pancreatitis however, there can also be other factors besides alcohol consumption.
Gallstones can cause acute cases of pancreatitis. There are approximately 80, 000 cases of acute pancreatitis reported every year and as many as 20% of the cases are severe. Blocked pancreas ducts can contribute to chronic pancreatitis. Blocked ducts can be hereditary, caused by alcoholism, or caused by unknown factors.
Diagnosis of Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis can be diagnosed through blood tests that measure the levels of glucose, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and bicarbonate in the bloodstream. A blood test will detect irregularities in the levels. An accurate diagnosis can be done by a hepatologist.
To check for inflammation, obstruction, or other damage, an abdominal ultrasound or CAT scan may be conducted.
It is more difficult to diagnose chronic cases but there are various methods to see if your pancreas is doing its job. Signs of pancreatitis can be detected using ultrasonic imaging, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and CAT scans. If the disease has progressed it may be diagnosed through blood, stool, and urine tests.
Treatment Recommended by a Hepatologist
The nature and severity of the condition will determine the treatment that is recommended. Acute pancreatitis may get better on its own. Even if you are no longer experiencing symptoms it is a good idea to see a doctor to determine the cause so you can prevent reoccurrence. If you have pancreatic pseudocysts or gallstones you will have to have them removed. Once pancreatitis is treated it is important to avoid alcohol and large meals.
For chronic cases, treatment will focus on pain relief and dietary changes. You will have to increase your intake of carbohydrates and decrease your fats. You may be prescribed pancreatic enzymes if the pancreas has stopped producing digestive enzymes.
If other pain relieving techniques are not working then surgery may be needed to drain an enlarged pancreatic duct or to remove part of the pancreas. If you suffer from pancreatitis it is important to stop drinking and adjust your diet appropriately as well as to take prescribed medication.
If you suffer from acute or chronic pancreatitis, schedule an appointment with Dr. Tabib for a complete diagnosis and treatment plan. Dr. Tabib has extensive knowledge of the stomach and digestive tract and will be able to recommend the treatment that will be best for you.