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Pancreatitis in Women Typically Not Related to Alcohol

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A person needs only had been on a date, had a mother and a father, or a brother or sister to say with a certain level of confidence that men and women are very different. Aside from the obvious physical distinctions, which in many a people’s mind aren’t what makes a person a woman or a man; there are also much deeper distinctions that run past skin deep.

Chronic pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that doesn’t heal or improve – rather it simply worsens over time, leading to permanent and irreversible damage. In time, the sufferer will lose their ability to digest food and make pancreatic hormones.

This terrible disease is thought by scientist to be directly linked, or rather, heavily influenced contributed to by the consumption of alcohol. They theorize that the molecules in alcohol interfere with the cells of the pancreas, stopping them working properly. Whatever the cause, there is a clear link between drinking alcohol and acute pancreatitis – and the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of developing the condition. But what about chronic pancreatitis?

The working theory is, that the more you drink, the more bouts of acute pancreatitis you experience, which in time, leads to permanent damage to your pancreases or, chronic pancreatitis. That’s not all, cigarettes are thought to increase the harmful effects of alcohol on the pancreas. Gallstones (small stones, usually made of cholesterol that form in the gallbladder) are another major cause of both types of pancreatitis.

However, a recent study on chronic pancreatitis has brought to light some interesting findings and might have found another differentiating factor between men and women. This is what they found:

“A total of 521 cases were included in the analysis; 45% were women. The investigators found that women were significantly less likely to have an alcohol-related etiology (30% vs 58.5% for men) and more likely to have nonalcoholic etiologies (idiopathic, 32% vs 18% for men; obstructive, 12% vs 2.4% for men; and genetic, 12.8% vs 7.3% for men). Findings were similar for men and women regarding demographics, pain experience, morphologic findings, exocrine and endocrine insufficiency, chronic pancreatitis–related disability, and use of medical therapies. Sphincterotomy (biliary, 33% vs 24% in men; pancreatic, 38% vs 28% in men) was performed more frequently in women, and cyst/pseudocyst operations were more common in men (6.6% vs 2.6% in women).”

What does that translate to? Well according to Dr Romagnuolo of the study, who found that the majority of chronic pancreatitis suffers that were women were not suffering from a type with a root cause in alcohol, unlike the men, where that instance was very high. This wouldn’t be significant if it wasn’t for the fact the alcohol consumption was about the same across men and women.

“Most chronic pancreatitis cases in women are from nonalcoholic etiologies,” concluded Dr Romagnuolo’s group. “In contrast to many other chronic diseases, clinical phenotype of chronic pancreatitis is determined by the disease and is independent of sex.”

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