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.
First, the pain of pancreatitis starts in the upper abdomen, which may persist for a few days. Severe pain may occur, and it becomes constant just in the abdomen. This pain may reach the back and other areas too. While consuming food, the pain may be sudden and intense or begin as a mild pain that gets worse.
The sign and symptoms of pancreatitis are:
- Abdominal pain that radiates to the back.
- Upper abdominal pain.
- Abdominal pain that feels worse after eating.
- Rapid pulse.
- Tenderness when touching the abdomen.
- Consume low-fat diet until the pancreas is healed.
- Eat bland foods and drink clear liquids until you feel better.
- Be safe with medicines.
- Do not drink alcohol.
- Get extra rest until you feel better.
- If the doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed.
- Consume liquid diet foods such as soups, gelatin, or broth. Those foods allow the inflammation process to get in a better way.
- Stop all alcohol consumption.
- Over-the-counter pain medications may also help.
Most of the pancreatitis cases (nearly 80%) are affected by the consumption of alcohol and gallstones' formation. The Single common cause of acute pancreatitis is gallstones' formation, and the occurrence of chronic pancreatitis is due to alcohol consumption.
Foods that are needed to avoid during pancreatitis are,
- Red meat.
- Fried foods.
- Organ meats.
- Fries and potato chips.
- Margarine and butter.
- Pastries and desserts with added sugars.
- Full-fat dairy.
- Beverages with added sugars.
Pancreatitis may range from mild to severe discomfort or life-threatening sickness. In severe cases, acute pancreatitis lead to serious tissue damage, bleeding, cysts, and infection. Severe pancreatitis can affect or harm other vital organs such as the kidneys, lungs, and heart.
The advisable and best food choices for people suffering from pancreatitis are vegetables, fruits, legumes, lean cuts of meat, nonfat/low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Healthy fats include seeds, olive oil, avocado, nuts, and fatty fish, maybe consumed with careful portion control.
The treatment for chronic pancreatitis include:
- Medication includes pain killers such as nonopioids. They might include Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen.
- It might also include mild opioids that do not relieve pain. Nonopioids are also recommended in some patients. If it is not helpful, mild opioids such as Codeine are given. Strong opioids such as Morphine can also be given.
Patients who are suffering from an acute type of pancreatitis are known to heal within a week. Patients can be discharged from the hospital after a week. In severe cases, the recovery from the treatment will take a long time. If there are any complications, then additional treatment might be required.
Last reviewed at:
09 Aug 2019 - 5 min read
Mbbs, Ms general surgery, Fellowship in hepatobiliary and liver transplant surgery, Fellowship in advanced liver surgery and liver transplantation
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