Symptoms and treatment of pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. This organ, located behind the stomach and close to the duodenum, is an important part of your body's digestion process. The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes that join with bile, produced in the liver, to help you digest food. When you have an attack of pancreatitis, the enzymes attack the organ that produces them, causing damage and pain. This is a serious infection, whether chronic or acute, and should be treated right away.
Pancreatitis Symptoms and Causes
There are two types of pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is caused by the presence of gallstones — hard, calcified pebbles that are produced when you have an attack of cholecystitis, or gall bladder disease. Gallstone pancreatitis is caused when the gallstones pass through the common bile duct, inflaming the pancreas on their way. Acute pancreatitis can be life-threatening, and may include these symptoms:
- Swollen and tender abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid pulse
Severe acute pancreatitis can cause low blood pressure and dehydration, and may attack other organs, causing them to fail. Sometimes, bleeding in the pancreas can happen. This causes shock and, eventually, death. This is why it's extremely important to seek medical attention if you are prone to gallstones and experience these symptoms.
Chronic pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that doesn't go away. It is most often caused by cystic fibrosis, other autoimmune disorders, some medications and hereditary disorders of the pancreas. Eventually, damage is caused to the organ if chronic pancreatitis goes untreated. Symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Oily stools
Loss of weight can be significant for those with chronic pancreatitis, even if they eat a healthy diet. This is because the digestive enzymes are not being secreted normally, causing loss of nutrients in the body.
Treatment for Pancreatitis
Your doctor, upon diagnosis, may hospitalize you if your pancreatitis is very severe. At this point, you may need IV treatment and hydration to return nutrients to your body. However, your doctor will most likely refer you to a dietician to examine your eating habits and establish a diet that's low in fat and high in nutrients. He or she may then administer pancreatic enzymes to help your pancreas break down the food that you eat.
Left untreated, pancreatitis will certainly cause severe abdominal pain and can also cause diabetes from your pancreatic cells being damaged. Acute attacks can cause death. If you suspect you have pancreatitis, see a doctor immediately.
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