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What Causes Pancreatitis?

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What Causes Pancreatitis?

An illness that results in an inflamed pancreas, in severe instances, pancreatitis can produce serious tissue damage in the gland, bleeding, cyst formation, and infection. Issues can also arise if toxins and enzymes are released into the bloodstream, potentially causing harm to other key organs like the kidneys, heart, and lungs.

As this large gland lies within a person’s abdomen (just behind the stomach, and next to the upper area of the small intestines), it’s main two functions include:

  • The discharging of digestive enzymes to help with digestion of fat, proteins, and carbohydrates; as well as,
  • Releasing glucagon and insulin hormones within the bloodstream. As such, these hormones help to metabolize blood glucose (sugar), and regulates how a person’s body uses and stores food as it relates to energy.

While the disease is not that common, it does develop when digestive enzymes become active and thus attack the pancreas gland. The condition develops and then over time gets worse. There are two types of pancreatitis, chronic and acute.

But, what causes the condition to arise?  When it comes to acute pancreatitis, the gland will be hit with a sudden bout of inflammation in short amount of time. With a majority of cases, the condition arises due to heavy alcohol consumption or bile duct stones. Other causes are:

  • Medications
  • Infections
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Trauma
  • Surgery
  • Metabolic disorders

There are some cases (approximately 10 to 15%), where the cause of acute pancreatitis is not known. While some instances result in mild abdominal discomfort, some patients report severe pain. For the most part, patients of acute pancreatitis make a complete recovery after treatment, with some minor cases becoming life-threatening.

Alternatively, chronic pancreatitis often occurs after an acute pancreatitis episode, and is due to ongoing inflammation of the gland. The condition can be caused by increased alcohol consumption or heaving smoking over long periods of time. On the other hand, some cases have resulted due to metabolic disorders. In some rare instances, chronic pancreatitis has developed due to family history.

Those who suffer from chronic pancreatitis may have to deal with loss of the glands function, and severe pain. This can result in issues around blood sugar and digestion.

Those with acute pancreatitis will find upper abdominal pain as a symptom, one that spreads throughout their back, which tends to be aggravated by eating, and will worsen over time. Their abdomens will be tender and swollen. Additional symptoms may include: fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Meanwhile, chronic pancreatitis has similar, and elevated symptoms. The back pain will be a constant one, and for some, will feel disabling. Additionally, some patients might lose weight, thanks to poor food absorption, even if their appetite and eating habits remain the same. Some may even develop diabetes as a symptom to their chronic pancreatitis.

If you think you may have pancreatitis, book an appointment to meet with your family doctor. As with any condition, early detection is key to treatment options and successful recovery.

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