The pancreas is a large gland located in the upper abdomen, behind our stomachs.  Our pancreas produces enzymes that aid with digestion as well as the release of hormones that regulate blood sugar. If these enzymes are activated while they are still in the pancreas (before they are released into the small intestine) they can lead to inflammation. This inflammation is known as pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis can be acute (lasting for a short time) or chronic (long-lasting). Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation that can result in symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Rapid pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Upper abdominal pain that radiates into the back
  • Tenderness when touching the abdomen
  • Abdominal pain that worsens after eating

Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation that does not improve or heal over time. It can lead to permanent damage and impair an individual’s ability to digest food and make pancreatic hormones.   This damage can lead to symptoms that include:

  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Oily or fatty stools
  • Pale or clay-colored stools
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

There are several factors and conditions believed to increase the risk of pancreatitis.  Risk factors include:

  • Family history of pancreatitis
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Gallstones
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Lupus
  • Smoking
  • Injury to the abdomen

Serious complications such as pancreatic cancer, diabetes or kidney failure can develop as a result of pancreatitis. Therefore, if you are experiencing symptoms associated with the disease it is recommended that you see your doctor right away.  Your doctor can order a series of tests and procedures to check for abnormalities of the pancreas. Treatment of pancreatitis varies with each individual and can include pancreatic enzyme supplements, treatment for alcohol dependence, smoking cessation, dietary changes, pain management or surgery.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.