Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic Pancreatitis | Healthier Me Today

Chronic pancreatitis is when there is inflammation of the pancreas. If it does not improve or heal, it can damage permanently. 

Left untreated, and once chronic pancreatitis has developed, the patient’s ability to digest food and make pancreatic hormones will be impaired. 

Sadly there is no cure once chronic pancreatitis has developed. However, there are ways to manage the symptoms associated with the ailment with the proper treatment. The symptoms can even be prevented. 

This is mainly caused by drinking alcohol, and often choosing to stay abstinent from alcohol can help with the symptoms and prevention.

What is Chronic Pancreatitis?

Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. This organ produces enzymes that help you digest your food and creates hormones that control the level of sugar in your bloodstream.

Sometimes pancreatitis can be acute and is considered when it comes on suddenly but only lasts a short period. It is only classified as chronic when it reoccurs or doesn’t heal for longer than a few months, sometimes even years. 

This can lead to severe and permanent damage and scarring. This could also result in cysts and calcium stones forming in the pancreas. This can block the tube which carries the digestive enzymes and liquids to your stomach. 

Causes of Chronic Pancreatitis

There are many causes of chronic pancreatitis. However, one of the leading causes is long-term alcohol abuse. It has been discovered that approximately 70% of cases of chronic pancreatitis are due to excessive alcohol consumption. 

Another cause is an autoimmune disease when your body starts to attack your healthy cells and tissue by mistake. 

Inflammatory bowel syndrome is inflammation of the digestive tract, a chronic liver disease associated with chronic pancreatitis. Other causes can include the following; 

  • A narrow pancreatic duct
  • Blockage of the pancreatic duct
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Genetics
  • High blood levels of calcium
  • High level of triglyceride fats in the blood

Symptoms

When you first develop chronic pancreatitis, you may not notice any symptoms, but the more it progresses, the more the symptoms will become present. A few of these will include;

  • Pain in abdomen
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • The fatty stool may be loose, pale, and has difficulty being flushed down the toilet
  • Diarrhoea

More severe symptoms will include the following;

  • Intestinal blockage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Pancreatic fluids in your abdomen
  • Jaundice (a yellowish discoloration of your eyes and skin)

Stages and Diagnosis of Chronic Pancreatitis

It may be difficult to see changes in the pancreas in the early stages via blood tests. Blood tests are not usually used to diagnose this disease. 

Imaging tests are more reliable when trying to diagnose this disease. These will include;

  • X-rays 
  • Ultrasounds
  • CT scans
  • MRI scans 

Your doctor could recommend an endoscopic ultrasound. 

Treatment

The treatment of chronic pancreatitis is usually intended to improve digestive function and reduce pain. There are three main treatments for chronic pancreatitis which are; 

  1. Medications – Medications that your doctor will most probably prescribe will be pain medication, artificial digestive enzymes, insulin if you have diabetes or steroids.
  2. Endoscopy – this will help get rid of blockages and reduce pain. This is when a flexible tube is inserted into your mouth and fed down your oesophagus. It will also allow your doctor to place stents to improve flow and help with leaks. It is also helpful in aiding your doctor in removing pancreatic stones.
  3. Surgery – not every case requires surgery. If there is no response to medication and there is severe pain. The surgery will remove part of the pancreas and will provide some relief.  

FAQ

  1. What is the leading cause of chronic pancreatitis? The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is alcohol. Causes include but are not limited to gallbladder disease, hyperparathyroidism, and pancreatic trauma. 
  2. Will surgery provide long-term relief? However, it only provides long-term relief in 70% of patients. Surgery is only an option after all other treatments have been exhausted.
  3. What are the main complications of chronic pancreatitis? The primary complications of this disease include malabsorption of nutrients, diabetes mellitus, and splenic vein thrombosis. 
  4. Can I expect full recovery from chronic pancreatitis? Unfortunately, the changes of this disease are not reversible; however, they can be managed. 

Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment. Always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!

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