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Difficulties in Early Diagnosis of Pancreatitis

RM Pancreatitis


When most are sick, in pain, or not feeling well, they put their faith into a medical professional to help diagnosis, treat and hopefully cure whatever is ailing them. However, much like the beloved television House depicted, this isn’t always so easy – and among the more difficult diagnosis is Chronic Pancreatitis.

Like the name suggests, Pancreatitis effects the pancreas; an organ responsible for excreting digestive juices and insulin to control blood sugar. Pancreatitis occurs when the digestive enzymes are not properly delivered to the small intestine and begin digesting the pancreatic tissues.

There are two types of Pancreatitis; Acute and Chronic. Acute Pancreatitis occurs suddenly, and if treated in time, usually resolves within a few days. Almost a quarter of a million Americans suffer from Acute Pancreatitis each year.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Chronic Pancreatitis which does not heal or improve. This type of pancreatitis usually gets worse over time and causes permanent damage.

So what makes Chronic Pancreatitis so difficult to diagnose? Well, it isn’t, as long as it is long-standing.

It is generally accepted that a patient with a long-standing affliction of Chronic Pancreatitis will exhibit easily identifiable abnormalities of the pancreas. This may include pancreatic ductal dilation, pancreatic parenchymal atrophy, or pancreatic calcifications to name a few.

However, these only usually present themselves in patients with long standing clinical illness and have developed and become visible over time. But what does that mean for early diagnosis?

Well, the idea of early diagnosis for Chronic Pancreatitis becomes a very challenging one for healthcare professionals. Chronic Pancreatitis might take years in order to be easily identifiable.

A great example of this is found in the symptom of pancreatic calcification. While the even though Chronic Pancreatitis might be present in the patient, it can take years, even decades for this symptom to exhibit itself, if it all.

For most suffers of Chronic Pancreatitis, it usually begins on the other end of the spectrum with Acute Pancreatitis although the transition from one to the others doesn’t always occur, which further adds to the difficulty in early diagnosis and ideally treatment.

This situation puts medical professionals in a very precarious spot, and from all the data and research that has been conducted over the year’s points to the only way to make an early diagnosis for Chronic Pancreatitis is to do so preemptively, before advanced structural and functional abnormalities have developed.

Thankfully, with the ever growing development of medical technology and highly sophisticated imaging tests, the hope of having a more concrete way of making an early diagnosis for Chronic
Pancreatitis is on the horizon. In the meantime, though, being proactive in your prevention is still the best practice.