Chronic Pancreatitis Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
What is pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is inflammation in the pancreas, there are two forms of pancreatitis:
- Acute pancreatitis
- Chronic pancreatitis
Acute pancreatitis: Acute pancreatitis is a type of pancreatitis that occurs suddenly. Tummy (abdominal) pain is the most common symptom. It normally passes in a few days, although it can become severe and very serious at times. Gallstones and excessive alcohol use are the two most common causes of acute pancreatitis.
Chronic pancreatitis: Chronic pancreatitis is pancreatic inflammation that does not heal or improve over time, leading to lasting damage. Chronic pancreatitis affects a patient's capacity to digest food and produce pancreatic hormones over time.
What are the causes of pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis can be caused by a variety of factors.
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Abdominal surgery
- Family history of pancreatitis
- Abdominal injury
- Certain medications
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pancreatic cancer
- High triglyceride levels in the blood
- High calcium levels in the blood (hypercalcemia), which may be caused by an overactive parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism)
What are the risk factors of pancreatitis?
Following are the risk factors:
- Obesity and inactivity
What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?
Symptoms of pancreatitis may vary, depending on which type the patient is experiencing.
Signs and symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Tenderness when touching the abdomen
Signs and symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Oily and smelly stools (steatorrhea)
Tests and diagnosis
To diagnose pancreatitis and find its causes, doctors use:
- Blood tests to check levels of pancreatic enzymes
- Stool tests to measure levels of fat
- CT scan to detect gallstones and assess the extent of pancreas inflammation
- Abdominal ultrasound to detect gallstones and pancreas inflammation
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to detect abnormalities in the gallbladder, pancreas and ducts.
Treatment for pancreatitis usually requires hospitalization. Once the patient is stabilized in the hospital and pancreatic inflammation is controlled, doctors can treat the underlying cause of pancreatitis.
Initial treatments to help control pancreatic inflammation may include:
- Diet: The patient may start to drink clear liquids and eat bland foods. The patient can gradually return to a normal diet. If pancreatitis persists and the patient continues to have pain while eating, the doctor may suggest a feeding tube to assist the patient in obtaining nutrients.
- Pain medication: Pancreatitis can cause severe pain. Antibiotics and pain relievers are the most common treatment for pancreatitis, according to physicians. The sort of drug administered will be determined by the person's symptoms, medical history, and treatment response.
- IV (Intravenous) fluids: Fluid therapy is critical in the treatment of acute pancreatitis (AP), particularly in the early stages of the disease.
Treatments depend on the cause of pancreatitis, examples of treatment may include:
- Procedures to remove bile duct obstructions: Pancreatitis caused by a restricted or obstructed bile duct may necessitate bile duct widening or opening treatments. Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a procedure that examines the pancreas and bile ducts using a long tube with a camera at the end. The ERCP procedure aids in the diagnosis and treatment of bile duct disorders.
- Gallbladder surgery: If gallstones cause pancreatitis, the doctor may recommend cholecystectomy surgery to remove the patient's gallbladder.
- Endoscopic retrograde: Doctors may perform endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography to remove gallstones lodged in the common bile duct and avoid additional inflammation in the pancreas in cases of acute pancreatitis caused by gallstones lodged in the bile duct.
Additional treatments for chronic pancreatitis
Chronic pancreatitis may require additional treatments, depending on the situation. Other treatments may include:
- Pain management
- Enzymes to improve digestion
- Changes to your diet