The pancreas is an important part of the digestive tract. This is an organ that is responsible for release of various enzymes and hormones as well. The pancreatic juice contains enzymes that help in hydrolyzing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that are ingested. The hormones produced by the pancreas are the all important glucagon and insulin. There are many conditions that can cause or lead to upper abdominal pain. The person experiencing the pain will have to undergo certain tests to know whether it is the pancreas or something else that is responsible for the pain.
Pancreas Pain Causes
The most common condition responsible for pancreas pain is pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is nothing but the inflammation of the pancreas. This may be acute or chronic in nature. There are many conditions that could be responsible for pancreatitis, like gallbladder disease, alcohol abuse, trauma / injury leading to bruised pancreas, excess use of steroids, high fat level in the body, certain infections, surgery and certain medical procedures, etc. In some cases, the disease is hereditary, while in some cases, the cause is never known.
The other common cause of pain is pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is the malignant neoplasm of the pancreas, the chances of landing with which, increase with age. The exact cause of this condition is not known though age, smoking, obesity, and a propensity towards diabetes mellitus have been implicated. As the pancreas is situated behind the stomach, deep inside the body, many times, pancreatic cancer is hard to find early. At an early stage, the tumor may not exhibit symptoms like abdominal pain. The symptoms may vary from person to person.
Symptoms of Pancreas Pain
It is difficult to club all the symptoms, as they usually vary depending on the underlying cause. However, they are often not restricted to the abdomen, but spread to other parts of the body too. Given below are the various symptoms:
- Pain in the upper abdomen which usually radiates to the surrounding areas, like the back, is a common complaint related to pancreas problems. In fact, abdominal pain that radiates to the back is a hallmark symptom of pancreatitis.
- The pain may be aggravated by eating, especially foods rich in fat. The abdomen might be swollen and tender.
- As the person eats food, the pancreas is supposed to secrete and release the juices accordingly. However, when a person is suffering from a disease of the pancreas, then the pancreas will malfunction. This will lead to decreased secretion of the digestive juices. This often has a ripple effect on the body, leading to malabsorption, deficiency of nutrients, loss of appetite, weight loss, etc.
- One may experience increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting, and/or fever.
- In some conditions, when there is a disease of the pancreas, there may be development of jaundice, due to blockage of the bile duct.
- In some cases, as the pancreas are not performing their function properly, there may be development of diabetes, due to the decreased secretion of insulin.
Pancreas Pain Treatment
The treatment will depend on the underlying cause. First, a pancreas pain diagnosis needs to be made, as there are many organs in the abdominal region, so the abdominal pain could be due to any of them. However, more often than not, elevated amylase and lipase levels are usually indicative of a pancreatic disease. If the person has pancreatitis, then the treatment will entail dealing with the gallstones or whatever it is that is causing the pancreatitis. Also, maintaining a strict pancreatitis diet also helps to keep the severity of symptoms in check. Pancreas pain relief will entail taking certain analgesics. However, if the person has pancreatic cancer, then the treatment options include surgery or chemotherapy. The prognosis for pancreatic cancer is relatively poor though.
Pancreas pain is a serious symptom that is usually indicative of an underlying disease. Severe pancreatitis can damage the heart, lungs, or kidneys. The diagnosis of this condition should be established at the earliest. Also, one must never ignore such symptoms, as the prognosis of any pancreatic disease worsens with any kind of delay.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.