The pancreas is a small organ located behind the stomach and near the duodenum. This is a long fish-shaped organ which is 6 to 8 inches in length in adults. The pancreas plays a vital role in producing digestive juices and important hormones required by the body. The pancreatic juices help in easy digestion of the food in the intestine. Insulin, which is one of the most important hormones required by the human body, is produced by the pancreas. Thus, the pancreas is responsible for regulating blood glucose levels in our body. The condition of an inflamed pancreas is called pancreatitis, and it can be a serious health problem. Acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis are the two types of pancreatitis. Now, let's have a look into the many causes of an inflamed pancreas.
When the pancreatic juices are unable to enter the intestine, they cause inflammation of the pancreas. Thus, pancreatitis is actually a result of some blockage in the pancreatic duct, that prohibits the flow of pancreatic juices into the intestine. The pancreatic juices then start acting upon the cells of the pancreas, further leading to scarring and inflammation of the pancreatic tissues. The major causes are listed below.
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Trauma to the abdomen
- High level of triglycerides
- Medications and drugs
- Genetic factors
- Congenital malformations of the pancreas
- A narrow bile duct or pancreatic duct
Upper abdominal pain is one of the main symptoms of pancreatitis. This pain may extend towards the back and may persist for many days. There are some cases of pancreatitis where patients do not experience any type of pain at all. Pain in the lower abdomen is rarely observed in pancreatitis. The symptoms of acute pancreatitis are listed below.
- Sudden upper abdominal pain
- Extended pain in the back
- Swollen abdomen
- Elevated abdominal pain after eating
- Reduction in abdominal pain after bending forward
- Tenderness in the abdomen
Diagnosis and Treatment
If pancreatitis is not diagnosed in its early stages, then it can lead to severe complications. These complications include kidney failure, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, breathing problems, etc. Thus, early diagnosis and treatment is a must for pancreatitis. Frequent episodes of upper abdominal pain needs medical advice to determine the possible cause of the pain. The doctor may perform certain tests like blood tests, ultrasonography of the abdomen, CT scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), etc., to confirm the diagnosis of inflamed pancreas. Doctors usually recommend hospitalization until the exact cause of pancreatitis is confirmed.
During the initial period, the patient is deprived from any type of food, to aid in recovery of the pancreas. Later, the patient needs to follow a diet, which basically consists of foods that are low in fats. The patient is administered medications that help relieve the pain. The treatment of inflamed pancreas depends on the underlying cause. Inflammation of the pancreas due to gallstones, requires removal of the gallbladder. If a narrowed or blocked bile duct is the problem, then endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) may be performed to widen the bile duct. If excessive alcoholism is the cause of pancreatitis, then the person should strictly abstain from alcohol.
Inflamed pancreas should be treated at the earliest to avoid further complications in the patient. Diagnosing the exact cause of pancreatitis can help in treating this health problem effectively.