Pancreatitis (say: “pan-kree-ah-tie-tiss”) is inflammation (swelling) of your pancreas. The pancreas is a gland near your stomach and liver that helps you absorb and digest food. Pancreatitis can be chronic (which means it lasts a long time, up to a few years) or acute (which means it only lasts a few days).
Pancreatitis can damage your pancreas, but there are medicines that can help control your pain and help you lead a normal life.
The symptoms of acute pancreatitis include the following:
People who have chronic pancreatitis also experience abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. They may also have the following symptoms:
There are a number of factors that can cause pancreatitis. The most common cause of pancreatitis is alcohol abuse. Other causes include the following:
Your doctor may do tests on samples of your blood or stool. He or she may scan your abdomen using an ultrasound machine. An ultrasound uses sound waves to build a picture of what your insides look like. Your doctor may also look at your abdomen using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computerized tomography (CT) scan.
If you have acute pancreatitis, you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days to get intravenous (IV) fluids, antibiotics and medicine to relieve pain. At first, you’ll need to rest your pancreas by not eating or drinking.
If you have chronic pancreatitis, your treatment plan may include a low-fat diet, medicine to relieve pain, insulin to help with high blood sugar levels and enzyme tablets (pills that help you digest food). People who have pancreatitis should not drink alcohol or smoke.
You may need more tests or even surgery if your pain is chronic or severe. Some people develop diabetes or cancer of the pancreas because of the damage caused by chronic pancreatitis. These conditions need separate treatment.
Pancreatitis can be an ongoing disease. Your symptoms may get worse or go away for a while, then come back. You may feel depressed, angry or frustrated. Chronic pain may make it hard for you to do your daily activities. Talk to your doctor about ways to manage these challenges.
To help manage your pancreatitis, you should do the following:
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff