Pancreatitis is a disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. The pancreas is a long, flat, pear-shaped organ located behind the stomach. It makes digestive enzymes and hormones, including insulin. In pancreatitis, the digestive enzymes attack the tissue that produces them.
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Causes of pancreatitis include:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for pancreatitis include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor will ask how much alcohol you drink and what medicines you take. A physical exam will be done.
Other tests may include:
Treatment for acute pancreatitis depends on the severity of the attack. Hospitalization may be necessary. The main goal is to rest the pancreas. In mild cases, this means you may not have food for 3-4 days. In severe cases, you may not be able to have food for 3-6 weeks. You will likely need strong pain medicine during this time.
Treatment may also include:
The goals of treatment for chronic pancreatitis are to relieve pain and manage nutritional and metabolic problems. Specific steps include:
Surgery and/or ERCP may be needed to:
If you are diagnosed with pancreatitis, follow your doctor's instructions.
The best way to avoid pancreatitis is to limit your intake of alcohol to two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less per day for women. If you have hyperlipidemia, restrict your intake of fat and follow your doctor’s treatment plan to lower your lipids. Get vaccinated against mumps.
American Gastroenterological Association
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Pancreas Foundation
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Acute pancreatitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated September 26, 2012. Accessed October 16, 2012.
Braganza JM, Lee SH, et al. Chronic pancreatitis. Lancet. 2011;377(9772):1184-1197.
Chronic pancreatitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated September 5, 2012. Accessed October 16, 2012.
Pancreatitis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/pancreatitis/. Updated August 16, 2012. Accessed October 16, 2012.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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