What is pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is inflammation (irritation) of the pancreas. The pancreas is a long, flat organ behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. The pancreas makes chemicals that help digest food and insulin that helps your body regulate blood sugar. When the pancreas is inflamed, it does not work as well. Pancreatitis can cause acute (short-lasting) or chronic (long-lasting) symptoms. Either form is serious and may cause complications.
What causes pancreatitis?
The most common causes of pancreatitis include gallstones and drinking too much alcohol. Less likely causes include medications or conditions which cause the pancreas to become blocked.
What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?
Acute pancreatitis usually causes upper abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. The abdominal pain may feel worse after eating, and pain may spread to your back. Chronic pancreatitis symptoms are abdominal pain, losing weight without trying, diarrhea, oily stools, and trouble and/or pain digesting food.
How do you know if you have pancreatitis?
Your doctor will look at your medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor may also order blood tests and stool tests. Other tests that may be ordered are abdominal ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan, endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
How is pancreatitis treated?
The treatment of pancreatitis depends on its cause. Acute pancreatitis usually requires 2-3 days in the hospital for intravenous (IV) fluids, bowel rest (nothing to eat) and pain medication. If pancreatitis is caused by gallstones, a procedures called Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) and/or Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) are done. Pancreatitis improves with time (days to weeks). Treatment of pancreatitis caused by drinking too much alcohol requires quitting drinking alcohol forever. During treatment, if patient's cannot eat for many days, nutrition can be given by a tube through the nose into the gut, or intravenously (into the vein) with liquid nutrition called TPN.