Published on Aug 09, 2019 - 5 min read
The pancreas is a 6-inch long organ present in the abdomen behind the stomach. It does both digestive and endocrinal functions. Its endocrine function includes regulating the blood sugar levels by secreting hormones insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and pancreatic peptide.
The pancreas is a 6-inch long organ present in the abdomen behind the stomach. It does both digestive and endocrinal functions. Its endocrine function includes regulating the blood sugar levels by secreting hormones insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and pancreatic peptide. It also helps in digestion by secreting pancreatic juice (digestive juice) through the pancreatic duct into the duodenum.
Inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis. This inflammation can appear suddenly or last for days. Mild cases resolve on their own without treatment, but some severe and acute cases might result in life-threatening complications.
The two types of are:
Gallbladder stones and heavy alcohol use are the two most common risk factors for developing pancreatitis.
This type of inflammation develops quickly. The milder forms do not require treatment, but its severe form should be managed promptly to avoid fatal complications.
It can result in the death (necrosis) of pancreatic tissues and sepsis, which can lead to multiorgan failure. Acute blood and fluid loss can result in hypovolemic shock, which can lead to oxygen deprivation and death.
The symptoms of acute pancreatitis are:
Sudden pain in the center of the upper abdomen.
Pain spreads to the back.
Pain increases on eating.
Loss of appetite.
Yellowish discoloration of skin and sclera (jaundice).
High or low blood pressure.
The common causes of acute pancreatitis are:
Gallstones can get stuck in the bile duct, which also prevents the pancreas from releasing enzymes into the duodenum, resulting in inflammation.
Bacterial infections like Salmonellosis and Legionnaire’s disease.
Viral infections like mumps, measles, chickenpox, and hepatitis B.
Autoimmune conditions like lupus.
Alcoholism results in activation of trypsin inside the pancreas, which damages the pancreas and causes inflammation.
High calcium and triglyceride levels.
1. For mild cases, medicines are given to relieve symptoms as the pancreas heals itself. The treatment includes -
A tube to remove excess liquid and air (nasogastric tubes).
Restricting food and liquid intake through mouth.
Fluids to prevent dehydration.
2. For severe cases -
If caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are given intravenously.
To prevent hypovolemic shock, intravenous fluids are administered.
Ventilation to assist breathing.
Nutrition is provided through feeding tubes.
Necrotic tissues in the pancreas are surgically removed.
Chronic pancreatitis is a slow and progressive disease of the pancreas, which leads to permanent damage to the structure and function of the pancreas. Men are more commonly affected than women.
The common initial symptoms include:
Severe upper abdominal pain.
Pain is accompanied by vomiting and nausea.
This can damage the pancreas, which eventually is not able to produce insulin, resulting in type 1 diabetes. At this stage, the patient experiences symptoms of diabetes like increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, weight loss, fatigue, and blurred vision.
The common causes include:
Recurrent episodes of acute pancreatitis.
When the cause is not known, it is called idiopathic chronic pancreatitis.
The following are the treatment options:
Lifestyle modification -
The pain is significantly relieved by giving up alcohol.
Quit smoking, as it can make the disease progress quickly.
Painkillers are given to manage pain and depression, which results from chronic pain.
If the patient has developed type 1 diabetes, Insulin injections are given for the rest of the life.
Endoscopic surgery - This is done to open blocked ducts in the pancreas.
Pancreas resection - The head of the pancreas is removed.
Total pancreatectomy - The entire pancreas is surgically removed.
Autologous pancreatic islet cell transplantation (APICT) - After a total pancreatectomy, islet cells from the removed pancreas are injected into the portal vein of the liver. These cells produce insulin.
If you are suffering from acute or chronic pancreatitis, make sure you consume a diet rich in protein, low in animal fats, and rich in antioxidants.
Food items to include-
Food items to avoid:
Butter and mayonnaise.
If your doctor suspects pancreatitis, he or she might tell you to perform the following tests:
Blood test - to check levels of pancreatic enzymes.
Stool test - to check the fat levels.
CT scan or abdominal ultrasound - to look for gallstones.
MRI scan - to check any abnormalities of pancreas and surrounding organs.
Endoscopic ultrasound - to check pancreatic or bile duct blockage.
Pancreatitis can result in the following complications:
Makes the pancreas susceptible to viral or bacterial infections.
Type 1 diabetes.
Pseudocyst (collection of fluid and debris in the pancreas).
Breathing problems due to a drop in oxygen levels.
Increased risk for developing pancreatic cancer.
You can reduce the risk of pancreatitis by:
Limit alcohol consumption.
Consume a low-fat diet.
Reduce weight, if you are overweight.
Avoid going on crash diets.
Pancreatitis can be managed with a few alterations in your lifestyle and by taking proper medications. To know more about the treatment options, consult a gastroenterologist online.
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