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Pancreatitis

What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. The inflammation may be sudden (acute) or ongoing (chronic). Acute pancreatitis usually involves a single "attack," after which the pancreas returns to normal. Severe acute pancreatitis can be life threatening. With chronic pancreatitis, permanent damage occurs to the pancreas and its function, often leading to fibrosis (scarring).

Women are one-and-a-half times more likely than men to have acute pancreatitis caused by gallstones. On the other hand, men are six times more likely than women to have acute pancreatitis caused by alcoholism.

What causes pancreatitis

The most common causes of pancreatitis are:

  • gallstones that block the pancreatic duct
  • alcohol abuse, which can lead to blockage of the small pancreatic ductules

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?

The following are the other most common symptoms of pancreatitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fast pulse
  • feeling ill
  • fever
  • swelling in the upper abdomen
  • ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity)
  • dropping blood pressure
  • severe abdominal pain in upper abdomen (with acute pancreatitis)

The symptoms of pancreatitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical examination, diagnostic procedures for pancreatitis may include:

  • abdominal x-rays or scans
  • endoscopic exam of the pancreatic ducts
  • blood tests

Treatment for pancreatitis:

Specific treatment for pancreatitis will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • hospitalization for observation and intravenous feeding
  • surgery
  • antibiotics
  • avoiding alcohol (if the pancreatitis is caused by alcohol abuse)

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