Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas.
Pancreatitis is defined as inflammation of the pancreas, an organ located in the upper mid-abdomen. If pancreatitis is sudden and only lasts a short time, it is referred to as acute pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis is long lasting and may worsen over time and can result in permanent damage.
What does the pancreas do?
The pancreas is part of the digestive system. It secretes enzymes that help the body break down foods, and it also releases hormones such as insulin so the body can convert food into energy.
What causes pancreatitis?
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Genetic disorders of the pancreas
- Certain medications
Other causes and risk factors for pancreatitis include:
- High triglycerides
- Pancreatic cancer
- A family history of pancreatitis
- Abdominal surgery
- Injury to the abdomen
- Cystic fibrosis
What is the main sign of pancreatitis?
The main sign of pancreatitis is pain in the upper mid-abdomen. This pain may range from mild to severe, it may have a sudden onset or it may develop slowly, and the pain may spread across the upper abdomen and into the back.
Other symptoms of pancreatitis can include:
- Feeling full quickly (early satiety)
- Tenderness in the abdomen
- Rapid heartbeat
How is pancreatitis treated?
If acute pancreatitis is mild, it may go away on its own without treatment. But in more serious cases, treatments for both acute and chronic pancreatitis can include IV fluids, medications, and possibly surgery depending on the cause of the pancreatic inflammation.
- IV fluids may be given to treat dehydration
- Medications may include antibiotics for infection and pain medicines
- Fluid may be drained from abdominal cysts
- Surgery may be needed to remove a blockage or relieve pressure in the pancreatic duct, or to remove a damaged part of the pancreas
- Dietary changes such as eating low fat foods and avoiding alcohol are recommended
What home remedies can treat pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis usually requires medical treatment, as complications can be serious and life threatening.
For mild pancreatitis, dietary and lifestyle changes may help relieve some symptoms.
- Avoid alcohol
- Consume a liquid diet – broth, soups, gelatin
- Don't smoke
Is pancreatitis life threatening?
The majority of cases of acute pancreatic will resolve with treatment. According to the National Pancreas Foundation, about 15% of patients with acute pancreatitis will later develop severe disease that can lead to infection and multiple organ failure, which can be fatal.
Chronic pancreatitis is a long-lasting condition but it is usually not fatal.
Can pancreatitis be cured?
Acute pancreatitis can be cured in most cases when treated promptly and appropriately.
However, chronic pancreatitis is long-lasting inflammation and damage and cannot be cured.
Pancreatitis can be prevented.
Pancreatitis cannot totally be prevented, but you can take steps to minimize risk factors.
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Eat a low-fat diet
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid alcohol
- Don't smoke
- Drink plenty of water
Pancreatitis causes pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatitis does not cause pancreatic cancer, but it is a risk factor as patients with chronic pancreatitis are three times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
In patients whose chronic pancreatitis is due to an inherited genetic mutation, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer is much greater.
Images provided by:
3. Big Stock Photo
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Pancreatitis
American Academy of Family Physicians. Pancreatitis.
Columbia University Department of Surgery. Pancreatitis Diet
National Pancreas Foundation. Acute Pancreatitis Risks and Treatment.
American Cancer Society. Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors
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