WHAT IS PANCREATITIS?
Your pancreas is a gland located near your stomach and small intestine that secretes special juices to aid in digestion. It also releases glucagon and insulin into your bloodstream.
If you have pancreatitis, your pancreas becomes inflamed, which can lead to serious complications if it’s left untreated. Pancreatitis may be acute, subside within a few days or be long-lasting.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PANCREATITIS?
If you have pancreatitis, you might experience one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Abdominal tenderness
- Upper abdominal pain
- Radiating abdominal pain
- Pain after eating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid pulse
- Unintentional weight loss
- Smelly, oily stools
Untreated pancreatitis puts you at risk for infection, cysts, kidney failure, diabetes, breathing problems, malnutrition and cancer.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR PANCREATITIS?
While anybody can develop pancreatitis, the following factors increase your risk of experiencing it:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prior abdominal injury or surgery
- Some medicines
- Cystic fibrosis
- High calcium or triglyceride levels
- Family history of pancreatitis
Maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol and adopting other healthy lifestyle habits can lower your risk of developing pancreatitis.
HOW IS PANCREATITIS DIAGNOSED?
To diagnose pancreatitis, your gastroenterologist reviews your symptoms and medical history. They complete a physical exam and may use blood tests, stool tests and imaging tests, including CT scans, MRIs or ultrasounds.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR PANCREATITIS?
Your personalized pancreatitis treatment plan depends on the type and severity of your condition.
Making lifestyle changes can reduce damage to your pancreas. Examples include not smoking or drinking, fasting, eating a well-balanced diet low in fat, and drinking more fluids. If you struggle to avoid alcohol, your doctor can refer you to a treatment program in your area.
MEDICATIONS AND SUPPLEMENTS
Taking medications for pain relief or enzyme supplements for improved digestion are additional pancreatitis treatment options. Your doctor may recommend IV fluids or nutritional supplements too.
Undergoing a surgical procedure can help you better manage pancreatitis and experience symptom relief. Your gastroenterologist might surgically repair bile duct obstruction, remove your gallbladder, drain pancreatic fluid or remove diseased tissue.