What You Should Look For In Pancreatitis

The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach, and it is responsible for releasing digestive enzymes into the duodenum. The pancreas also releases different hormones into the bloodstream.

These hormones work to regulate glucose by making it be absorbed or released from cells and into the bloodstream. Pancreatitis is a relatively rare condition in which a person's pancreas becomes inflamed. If the inflammation is bad enough, the enzymes will back up into the pancreas and begin digesting it. Sometimes, pancreatitis causes enzymes to be released into places they should not be, opening the door for more widespread damage.

Pancreatitis is treated in a few different ways. For severe dehydration, a person will need to stay in the hospital and receive intravenous (IV) fluids while the pancreas is being monitored. Pain medication and antibiotics can also be used to treat the condition. Antibiotics are specifically used when there is an infection present in the pancreas. Sometimes, the best thing a person can do for pancreatitis is to let the pancreas take a break. This entails placing nutrients directly into the bloodstream with an IV and not consuming anything orally, or a doctor may prescribe a low-fat or low-nutrition diet for a short period of time. This stops the pancreas from being stimulated to produce enzymes, which lets it focus on being healed.

What to Look for in Pancreatitis

Broadly, pancreatitis can be divided into the categories of acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas that occurs over a short period of time and chronic pancreatitis is prolonged episodes of pancreatitis that occurs after acute pancreatitis. While these categories have some differences mainly in the cause, both have a similar set of warning signs.

Most people who experience acute pancreatitis have severe pain in the upper abdomen that gradually spreads to the back. It is commonly described as a piercing sort of pain felt internally and it can cause the abdominal region to be incredibly tender. In certain cases, the pain can be disabling. People commonly report feeling nauseated and present with a fever. Some people also vomit. Acute pancreatitis is also associated with an increased heart rate. All the symptoms can be aggravated by eating food. Once in the hospital, pancreatitis can be monitored by checking the pancreatic enzyme levels in the blood.

Chronic pancreatitis has symptoms that closely mirror those of acute pancreatitis. There is still constant abdominal pain that radiates to the back that can be disabling, but it usually is not as sharp as the pain in acute pancreatitis. Nausea, vomiting, and increased heart rate can also accompany chronic pancreatitis. Things become a little different from here. People with this condition may experience weight loss, even when the appetite is unchanged. This occurs because too few pancreatic enzymes are being secreted into the duodenum. People with chronic pancreatitis can also develop diabetes. This would occur when the increased enzyme levels cause damage to the beta cells of the pancreas. 

Frequently Asked Questions

With this information, you may still have a few questions. Hopefully the following will help:

Q: Is pancreatitis fatal?

A: Sometimes. This depends on how long the pancreas remains inflamed and what is causing the inflammation.

Q: Does pancreatitis mean I have pancreatic cancer?

A: It does not. Pancreatitis can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer, but it also can be caused by alcohol consumption, infections, metabolic disorders, or many other factors.

Q: How would a doctor test for pancreatic cancer?

A: The doctor would look for other physiological signs of cancer, such as tumor markers, and the doctor may also take a biopsy to determine if cancerous cells are present.

Q: How would pancreatitis caused by cancer be treated?

A: It would be treated in the same way as any pancreatitis with extra consideration for the cancer. Chemotherapy would be employed, and pancreatectomy, surgical removal of all or part of the pancreas, may be considered.

Q: Can I prevent pancreatitis?

A: Yes. Once a cause is determined, you can change your lifestyle in the appropriate manner. People who do not have pancreatitis can also change life to prevent it from developing.

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