What is Pancreatitis?
The pancreas is a long gland that is located in the abdomen and surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver, spleen, and gallbladder. It secretes enzymes that aid in digestion and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it is called pancreatitis. There are a number of conditions that can lead to pancreatitis, including alcoholism, certain medications, cystic fibrosis, obesity, injury to the abdomen, infection, obesity and more.
Pancreatitis can occur as acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis is when this condition occurs suddenly and lasts for days, while chronic pancreatitis occurs over many years.
Common signs and symptoms include:
Acute Pancreatitis Symptoms
- Pain in the upper abdomen.
- Abdominal pain that radiates to the back.
- Swollen or tender abdomen.
- Nausea and vomiting.
Chronic Pancreatitis Symptoms
- Upper abdominal pain.
- Oily stools (steatorrhea).
- Weight loss.
How is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects that your symptoms are related to pancreatitis, he or she will begin with a physical exam, which includes pressing on your belly area to see if it is tender. They will also check for low blood pressure, rapid pulse, and fever. Your doctor will then recommend some tests or procedures for diagnosis. These may include blood tests, stool tests, pancreatic function tests, CT scans, abdominal ultrasound, endoscopic ultrasound, ERCP, MRI, or biopsy among others.
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Treatment Options for Pancreatitis
While mild cases of pancreatitis may go away without treatment, more severe cases should be addressed to prevent life-threatening complications. Overall, treatment may depend on if you have acute or chronic pancreatitis.
Treatments for Acute Pancreatitis
Patients with acute pancreatitis may need to stay in the hospital for treatment. In cases where the pancreas is infected, antibiotics can be prescribed. IV fluids will be given, and you may be put on a low-fat diet or temporarily receive nutrients through a feeding tube so that your pancreas can recover. Pain medication is also an option to help keep you comfortable during your stay. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove gallstones, take out the gallbladder, or clean out fluid or diseased tissue in the pancreas.
Treatment for Chronic Pancreatitis
Treatment for chronic pancreatitis usually focusing on treating pain and watching for complications that may affect digestion. Your pancreatitis managements may include some of the treatments for acute pancreatitis along with insulin to treat diabetes, pancreatic enzymes, pain medication, or surgery to relieve pain, help with drainage or address blockages.
Tips for Preventing Pancreatitis
Many cases of pancreatitis are caused by heavy alcohol consumption, so limiting your alcohol intake can be a good first step in prevention. If you are concerned regarding your drinking habits or feel that you need to reach out for help, speak with your doctor or a health care professional regarding alcohol treatment centers or Alcoholic Anonymous near you.
Your South Denver GI Team
At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Pancreatitis (Acute and Chronic) or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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