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What is pancreatitis?

The pancreas is a large gland that aids in the digestive process. It releases powerful digestive enzymes into the small intestine to help digest food and it also releases insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. These two hormones help the body regulate the way it processes sugar for energy. Pancreatitis is when the pancreas becomes inflamed and is inhibited from performing its essential functions. Acute pancreatitis is the sudden, temporary inflammation of the pancreas. Most cases of acute pancreatitis are completely resolved with the right kind of treatment. Chronic pancreatitis typically develops slowly and can last much longer. Chronic pancreatitis is usually associated with heavy alcohol consumption. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with pancreatitis, expert help is available through your local GI Alliance.

What causes pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis occurs when the digestive enzymes mentioned above activate prematurely and begin to irritate and attack the pancreas. The main causes of pancreatitis are:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Gallstones
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Infection
  • Certain medications
  • Family history of pancreatitis
  • Overactive parathyroid gland
  • High triglyceride levels in the blood
  • High calcium levels
  • Abdominal injuries
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Trauma

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?

The main symptoms of pancreatitis can include:

  • Fever
  • Increased heart rate
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Upper abdominal pain that radiates to your back, especially after eating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Oily, smelly stools
  • The abdomen is swollen or tender to the touch

What are the treatments for pancreatitis?

Treatment for acute pancreatitis typically involves IV fluids, pain medications, and fasting to rest your pancreas. If the pancreatitis is severe enough then surgery may be necessary to remove the dead or damaged tissue if an infection develops. If acute pancreatitis is caused by gallstones, pancreatitis may be treated by surgical removal of the gallbladder.

Treatment for chronic pancreatitis involves:

  • Procedures to remove bile duct obstructions
  • Pancreas surgery
  • Treatment for alcohol dependence
  • Administration of enzymes to improve digestion
  • Adjusted diet – usually low fat
  • Stop drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Stop smoking
  • Insulin
  • Low-fat diet
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The experts in pancreatic care

If you or a loved one suffers from pancreatitis, you want to trust your care to a skilled gastroenterologist. Whether your pancreatitis is acute or chronic, our GI doctors can come alongside you and provide expert treatment. GI Alliance provides patients with the nation's leading physician-led network of GI specialists. Our doctors are dedicated to serving with patient-centric compassion while maintaining the highest clinical standards. To consult with a gastroenterologist who specializes in your condition, contact your local GI Alliance.

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