The pancreas is located behind the stomach, near the large intestine. It is a gland which has several very important functions in the body. The pancreas is responsible for releasing digestive enzymes, which are used by the digestive system to help process food. The pancreas also releases insulin and glucagon, both of which are hormones that are vital to helping your body control energy from food.
When the pancreas becomes inflamed, this is a condition known as pancreatitis. Damage can occur to the pancreas when enzymes that are normally used to digest food are released before entering into the small intestine. These enzymes then begin attacking the pancreas, which can lead to serious health problems.
Pancreatitis can occur in two forms: chronic and acute. In the case of acute pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas occurs suddenly, and and does not last long. The severity of acute pancreatitis can range greatly, from just mild discomfort, to being a life threatening condition. Fortunately, most people who do suffer from acute pancreatitis will fully recover once given the right treatment.
In the case of chronic pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas is much longer in duration. Chronic pancreatitis will often occur after the initial acute phase, and is also often caused by heavy alcohol consumption.
Both acute and chronic pancreatitis have similar symptoms, which include upper abdominal pain (which is often worsened by eating), swollen abdomen area, nausea, vomiting, fever, and an increased heart rate. In chronic cases, pain may be consistent over long periods of time. Additionally, chronic pancreatitis can cause weight loss due to poor food digestion, as well as potentially diabetes if the insulin production functions of the pancreas have been damaged. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek treatment from your local gastroenterologist as soon as possible.
Causes of pancreatitis can vary. In many cases, long term heavy alcohol use is the cause. In other cases, gallstones may be the cause. Some medications may also cause pancreatitis, as can infection, trauma, and hereditary disorders. In many causes, the causes of pancreatitis might be unknown. Your doctor can advise you further on what might have caused your pancreatitis, based on your unique medical history and lifestyle.
Although treatment of pancreatitis can usually be very effective, if you think you’re suffering from this condition, it is important for you to seek medical help as soon as possible. If you’re local to Arlington Texas or the Texas DFW region, the team at Arlington Gastroenterology Services can help with diagnosing and treating pancreatitis.