What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. Pancreatic damage happens when the digestive enzymes are activated before they are released into the small intestine and begin attacking the pancreas according to wedmd.com. Under normal circumstances, your pancreas produces digestive enzymes that do not become active until they reach the small intestine. Once there, they help your body break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates as part of the digestive process. However, if these enzymes become active within the pancreas, they can cause acute or chronic bouts of inflammation.


Pancreatitis is usually associated with abdominal pain, which may range from mild to severe. In some cases, the pain will radiate through the abdomen to the back. You also may experience nausea and vomiting. These symptoms are found in patients with chronic and acute pancreatitis. However, there are important differences between the two.

Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis may also result in a swollen and tender abdomen, fever, and rapid pulse. This may lead to dehydration and low blood pressure. If the condition gets severe enough, the result could be heart, lung or kidney failure. If bleeding in the pancreas can occurs, the condition can be fatal.

Chronic pancreatitis

The symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are slightly different, due to the long-term nature of the condition. Patients with this condition often lose weight, as the body loses its ability to digest much of what they eat. This also results in fatty stools. At a certain point, the pancreas stops producing digestive enzymes altogether, which leads many patients to stop experiencing abdominal pain. If the pancreas stops producing insulin, diabetes can develop.


Pancreatitis can develop as the result of many factors, but overconsumption of alcohol is probably the most common cause. Acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis can both result from drinking too much, with the latter being caused by years of alcohol abuse (as many as 70 percent of chronic cases are attributable to alcohol abuse). However, alcohol is not the only factor.

Acute cases can also be triggered by the presence of gallstones, or other factors in some cases. An estimated 80,000 cases of acute pancreatitis are reported each year, with as many as 20 percent of them being severe. Chronic pancreatitis can develop as the result of blocked pancreatic ducts (due to trauma or pseudocysts), heredity, alcoholism, and unknown causes.


Diagnosing acute pancreatitis can usually be accomplished using blood tests, which can measure the levels of glucose, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and bicarbonate in the bloodstream to check for irregularities. A hepatologist can help you determine the steps to take for producing an accurate diagnosis. An abdominal ultrasound or CAT scan may also be ordered to check for inflammation, obstruction, or other damage to the pancreas.

Chronic cases can be more difficult to diagnose, but there are many methods available to see if your pancreas is functioning normally. Ultrasonic imaging, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and CAT scans can help Dr. Tabib visualize the pancreas and check for signs of damage. If the disease has progressed into malabsorption and diabetes, blood, stool and urine tests can all be used for diagnosis.

Hepatologist Recommended Treatment

Treatment for pancreatitis can vary, depending on the nature and severity of the condition. Acute attacks usually improve on their own within a few days. Even if this is the case for you, Dr. Tabib will still need to determine the nature of the attack to prevent it from recurring. The presence of pancreatic pseudocysts or gallstones will usually necessitate surgical removal. Following treatment, you will need to avoid drinking alcohol and eating large meals for some time.

Treatments for chronic cases focus on pain relief and dietary changes to increase the consumption of carbohydrates and decrease fat consumption. If the pancreas has stopped producing digestive enzymes altogether, you may be prescribed pancreatic enzymes to take with meals. If pain relief cannot be achieved through other means, surgery may be used to drain an enlarged pancreatic duct or remove part of the pancreas. At the very least, patients with pancreatitis must stop drinking, adjust their diet and take the prescribed medications.

Today, gastroenterology conditions can be treated effectively. if diagnosed early with a colonscopy, these cancers can be cured with excellent outcomes. We provide everyone a personalized gastroenterology treatment plan to meet your unique needs and improve your quality of life. Contact our gastroenterology and hepatology center to schedule a consolation with Los Angeles’ preferred Gastroenterologist– Dr. Tabib.

Dr. Tabib’s completed his postgraduate fellowship, residency, and internships at the UCLA/Cedar-Sinai Medical Center.

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Siamak Tabib, M.D., Inc.
8631 W 3rd St Suite 1015E,
Los Angeles, CA 90048

(310) 683-4911

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