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Functional Bowel Conditions Can Seem Like Chronic Pancreatitis

RM Pancreatitis


While the symptoms may seem like chronic pancreatitis, and even the MRI results can look like the condition, the disease a patient is suffering may not be in fact pancreatitis.

Dr. Vikesh Singh, Director at Johns Hopkins Pancreatitis Center, recently chimed in on this idea stating that chronic abdominal pain can have a variety of possible causes, with many healthcare practitioners that heavily rely on endoscopy and imaging study when it comes to diagnosing chronic pancreatitis, when in reality it is just one element of the illness that is a syndrome.

In fact, according to the Hopkins Medicine website, the doctor states there is a lot more when it comes to pain in the abdomen than a pancreas that is inflamed. As there is no criteria that is universally accepted when it comes to diagnosis of the condition, at times, the disease can suffer from is labelled as “over-diagnosed”.

The function and appearance of the pancreas are common changes as a person gets older. At times, those alterations can appear to look abnormal on a scan, which thus leads to a misdiagnosis.

The end result? Doctors can subject patients to many interventions, when at times, they are dealing with function bowel disorders. In fact, a recent large-scale survey study revealed that close to 10% of respondents met the criteria listed around a functional bowel condition.

Singh went on to note that while ERCP, endoscopic ultrasound and surgical procedures can be excellent tools; however, if a diagnosis is incorrect, they will offer less-than-valued results. Additionally, the complex nature around chronic pain in the abdomen can also lead to opioid painkiller use, which can cause an element of danger when it comes to these types of chronic conditions.

Singh, along with other colleagues at Johns Hopkins in other areas, are working to find chronic abdomen pain treatments where opioid painkillers can be prevented.

Functional bowel disorders often affect a person’s central nervous system and gut. Psychiatric illness and stress can also cause pain in the abdomen, and vice versa. Regarding abdomen pain in different light is helping Singh when it comes to managing patients who deal with functional bowel disorders.

Singh noted that those who deal with knee or back issues can get injection treatments, as well as other options to help with discomfort; however, it gets much more complicated when was is dealing with abdomen pain due to the way it connects brain and body’s central circuitry.

The doctor compared opioid prescriptions for chronic abdominal pain to that of hitting a fly with a skyscraper, rather than that of a light swatter. He added that neuromodulators can battle pain straight at its source. By focusing on the neural network that transmits pain signals to a person’s brain, some can gain relief from discomfort, without entering the dangerous waters of opioid dependence and potentially abuse.

This also helps when the patient’s pain can be pinpointed, which can sometimes be challenging to figure out, too; whether that is specially in the central nervous system or gut.