Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis: Symptoms, Treatment and Risk Factors

The pancreas is a vital organ that performs various functions, but it is susceptible to damage that could diminish its effectiveness. Over the past two decades, acute pancreatitis and its primary complication, pancreatic pseudocysts, have become more prevalent worldwide.

These two conditions are the most common surgical emergency and are the respective surgical pathologies. Because of an increasing worldwide trend in acute Pancreatitis, a better understanding of the disease pathophysiology is essential for better treatment.

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes transform and damage the pancreas tissues leading to inflammation and scarring of the pancreas. This painful disease can lead to harrowing encounters with eating and digestion.

The common causes of Pancreatitis include medication, high triglyceride levels, genetic disorders, and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

The most classic symptom is severe pain in the middle of the abdomen and below the breastbone. This pain radiates to the back and can come in waves. Other common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

What are the Signs of Pancreatitis?

The most classic signs of Pancreatitis include:

Abdominal or Low Back Pain

According to the NIH, most people experience abdominal pain as the first sign of Pancreatitis. This type of pain ranges physically from the abdomen’s front side to the back area and may leave you in a great deal of distress for several hours.

If the pain doesn’t get better, consult your doctor for emergency medical care.

Bloating

Have you ever experienced a very swollen stomach after a meal? Although this may be normal, it should cause concern because it is unhealthy. While several conditions such as stress obesity can cause bloating, pancreatitis is one of the major culprits.

Pancreatitis causes digestion problems, leading to gas buildup and extra fluid in the abdomen (ascites).

Rapid Weight Loss

Chronic Pancreatitis commonly causes weight loss, even for people with normal appetites and eating habits. Pancreatitis occurs because of a lack of pancreatic enzymes, which prevent the digestion of nutrients.

The consequence of inadequate digestion is the excretion of fat in the stool, causing malnutrition.

Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes caused by substances that block the normal breakdown of old red blood cells in the body. Pancreatitis can cause jaundice due to hepatic cellular injury or biliary tract disease.

Patients without hepatic injury or biliary tract disease may experience obstruction of the common duct due to pancreatic fibrosis, edema, or pseudocysts.

Discoloration of Stool

Diarrhea and constipation are common symptoms of Pancreatitis. When there are insufficient pancreatic enzymes in the intestines, diarrhea with loose, watery, oily, or foul-smelling stools may occur.

Onset of Diabetes

The onset of type 2 diabetes in people with no family record of the disease may be a symptom of pancreatitis.

Digestion Problems

Indigestion and nausea are common symptoms of the onset of Pancreatitis. Digestion problems arise when your digestive system fails to digest and absorb nutrients.

Risk factor for Pancreatitis

The risk factor factors for Pancreatitis include:

Age

While it’s possible to develop acute Pancreatitis at any age, the condition is more common in people in their 50s.

Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of the onset of Pancreatitis in the younger generation. Smoking accounts for approximately 25% of Pancreatitis.

Gender

Males are more at risk of developing this deadly disease than females.

Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the significant clinical signs of Pancreatitis.

Diet

An unhealthy diet containing food items such as red meat, nitrosamines, and junk is dangerous and predisposed to Pancreatitis. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake can reduce that risk.

Diagnosis

Diagnostic procedures usually involve a series of X-rays, such as angiograms, CT scans, and ERCP, ultrasounds like Transabdominal and Endoscopic ultrasound.

Your doctor will likely review your medical history to determine the potential cause of your condition. During an examination, your doctor will check for tenderness in your abdomen and listen for intestinal sounds.

Before administering treatment, your doctor may ask about your pain’s onset, duration, and severity.

Treatment

If you have pancreatitis, your primary care provider will most likely refer you to a gastroenterologist. Your gastroenterologist will recommend an appropriate treatment plan based on the severity of your condition.

The treatment plan your doctor may administer includes:

  • Medication to minimize discomfort
  • Supplemental pancreatic enzymes
  • Endoscopic procedures to remove blockages in the pancreases

Generally, acute pancreatitis treatment most often results in complete recovery; however, if you experience extreme discomfort, consult your doctor for emergency medical care.