What is Pancreatitis?

    Pancreatitis refers to the inflammation of the pancreas, a crucial gland responsible for aiding digestion and regulating blood sugar levels. This inflammation can result in swelling, pain, and disruptions in organ function.

    Situated behind the stomach, the pancreas plays a vital role in the digestive process. However, when inflamed, it can lead to acute or chronic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis typically manifests suddenly and resolves relatively quickly, while chronic pancreatitis is a persistent condition characterized by ongoing damage to the pancreas.

    While mild cases of acute pancreatitis may improve without intervention, severe cases often necessitate hospitalization and treatment due to the potential for life-threatening complications. Therefore, prompt medical attention is crucial in managing pancreatitis effectively.

What are the types of Pancreatitis?

    There are two primary types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic.

    1. Acute Pancreatitis:

    Acute pancreatitis is typically a short-term condition that arises when the pancreas undergoes a brief period of injury. Most individuals with acute pancreatitis recover fully within a few days with appropriate care such as rest, hydration, and pain management. However, severe cases can lead to significant health complications, some of which may be life-threatening.

    2. Chronic Pancreatitis:

    Chronic pancreatitis is a progressive, long-lasting condition characterized by ongoing damage to the pancreas. Unlike acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis does not resolve and worsens over time. Prolonged inflammation leads to the development of scar tissue in the pancreas (fibrosis), impairing its ability to produce enzymes and hormones. While chronic pancreatitis may take years to manifest, it ultimately damages the pancreas permanently.

What are the causes of Pancreatitis?

    Both acute and chronic pancreatitis share several common causes, which include:

  • Gallstones
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Infections
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Injury to the abdominal area

    Also, elevated levels of calcium or triglyceride (fat) in the bloodstream can contribute to chronic pancreatitis.

    Among these causes, gallstones are the most prevalent trigger for acute pancreatitis. Gallstones are small, solid formations that originate from bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. When a sizable gallstone becomes lodged at the junction where the central pancreatic duct and the common bile duct meet, it obstructs the flow of digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the liver and gallbladder into the duodenum, the initial segment of the small intestine. This obstruction leads to pancreatic and joint bile duct inflammation, resulting in pancreatitis.

What are the risk factors of Pancreatitis?

    There are several risk factors associated with an increased likelihood of developing pancreatitis, including:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption (more than two drinks per day)
  • Obesity
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Genetic predisposition
  • A combination of risk factors, such as smoking coupled with a family history of pancreatitis, further elevates the risk of developing the condition.

    Moreover, smoking or alcohol consumption can heighten the risk of acute pancreatitis progressing to chronic pancreatitis.

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?

    Most individuals with acute or chronic pancreatitis typically present with middle-left upper abdominal pain as their primary symptom.

    Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:

  • Onset of pain in the upper abdomen, which can occur suddenly or gradually
  • Pain that may radiate to the back
  • The intensity of pain ranges from mild to severe
  • Duration of pain lasting several days
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling or tenderness in the abdomen
  • Elevated heart rate

    Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include:

  • Upper abdominal pain, which may be absent in some cases
  • Pain that may radiate to the back
  • Aggravation of pain after eating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting

    Individuals with chronic pancreatitis may also experience steatorrhea, characterized by foul-smelling fatty stools. Steatorrhea indicates malabsorption, wherein essential nutrients are not adequately absorbed due to insufficient secretion of digestive enzymes by the pancreas, leading to incomplete breakdown of food.

Complications of Pancreatitis

    Complications of pancreatitis are uncommon but are more frequently observed in individuals with chronic pancreatitis:

  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Malnutrition
  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatic infections

    In some cases, pancreatitis can lead to the formation of pseudocysts, which occur when tissue and debris accumulate in the pancreas. While some pseudocysts may resolve spontaneously, others may rupture, leading to infections and bleeding. If left untreated, these complications can be life-threatening.

When to see your doctor

    Schedule a consultation with your healthcare provider if you experience sudden or persistent abdominal pain. If the pain is severe and disrupts your ability to find relief or remain still, seek immediate medical attention.

Enquiry Form


mobile app