In simple terms, pancreatitis is a condition that leads to the inflammation of the pancreas. For the uninitiated, pancreas is a major gland of the human body that is responsible for producing digestive enzymes, and hormones insulin and glucagon. What causes pancreatitis? What are the signs and symptoms? When should you seek medical help? In this post, we will discuss all of that and much more.
Knowing the causes
When your digestive system is working normally, the enzymes produced in the pancreas will become activated once released into the small intestine for digestion. When a person has pancreatitis, the enzymes are activated in the pancreas, which irritates the gland cells and eventually leads to inflammation. There are varied factors that may cause the condition, including formation of gallstones, heavy drinking, surgery, use of certain medication, and smoking. Studies have revealed that a person with a history of the condition in the family may also acquire it. Cystic fibrosis, hypercalcemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and abdominal injury are some of the other causes.
Find the symptoms
Pancreatitis can be of two types – acute and chronic, and the symptoms for both vary, although in many cases, acute pancreatitis eventually leads to chronic pancreatitis. When your pancreas is not working as intended, you may have pain in the upper part of the abdomen that may seem to reach your back. The pain may feel worse after you have had a high-fat meal. Some patients also complain of nausea, vomiting and fever. In case of chronic pancreatitis, the symptoms are almost similar, although you may have unexplained weight loss and a condition known as steatorrhea, where your stool feels kind-of oily.
When you should see a doctor?
If you have abdominal pain that refuses to subside or comes back time and again, talk to your doctor. Doctors and experts from United Surgical Partners International suggest taking an appointment as soon as you have the second bout of pain. Pancreatitis is a treatable condition, especially if detected early. Your doctor may ask you to fast for a couple of days, or may suggest medicines for reducing the pain. When pancreatitis is caused by gallstones, the gallbladder may be removed, and pancreas surgery is also considered as one of the last resorts.
Talk to your doctor if you have pain and swelling in your upper abdomen, and do not self-medicate unless you have completed the tests suggested by your healthcare provider.