Pancreatitis: Severe or chronic cases are life-threatening
Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreas is a flat and long gland situated behind the stomach. It produces different enzymes to help the digestion process. Pancreas produces the hormone, insulin that helps to regulate sugar (glucose) in the blood. Usually, the mild cases of pancreatitis may go away with time, however, the severe cases are greatly life threatening.
The symptoms of pancreatitis include upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and abdominal tenderness. In chronic pancreatitis, there is upper abdominal pain, weight loss, oily or smelly stools. People with pancreatitis may find it difficult to sit, as the abdominal pain is very severe in the sitting posture.
When the digestive enzymes produced in the pancreas become activated while inside the organ, it leads to the condition called pancreatitis. When the enzymes are produced during the digestion process, they remain inactive while they are in the pancreas. Once the enzymes reach the small intestine, through the ducts, they turn active and help in the process of digestion. If the enzymes are activated while in the pancreas, it may irritate the cells and causing inflammation. Damage to pancreas brings with it, digestion problems and diabetes. Pancreatitis begins with acute condition and leads to chronic case.
Pancreatitis may be the fall-out of alcoholism, gallstones, abdominal surgery, smoking, cystic fibrosis, family history of pancreatitis, high blood calcium, ho triglyceride, and abdominal injuries.
Risk factors and complications
The complications of pancreatitis include, internal bleeding and infection of the pancreas, low oxygen levels in the body, damage to insulin producing cells leads to diabetes, malnutrition, diarrhea and weight loss and inflammation.
Tests and diagnosis
To verify and check for pancreatitis, the doctor refers the patient to series of tests. The blood and stool tests are primary to know the presence of pancreatitis. The blood test looks for elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes, and the stool test measures the levels of fat in the stool. The more the fat in the stool, the more are chances of a failing pancreas which is not able to produce digestive enzymes. This also reflects on the digestive system’ inability to absorb nutrients from the food.
On confirmation of pancreatitis, the patient is referred to CT scan, which will assess the extent of pancreas inflammation. Abdominal ultrasound is done to find gallstones and pancreas inflammation. Endoscopic ultrasound helps to look for inflammation and blockage of pancreatic duct. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies abnormalities in the gallbladder, pancreas and ducts.
The diagnostic reports help the doctor to get confirmation of pancreatitis. The treatment depends on the stage of pancreatitis. The patient should totally avoid alcohol during the treatment period. The doctor prescribes pain medications to control pain in pancreatitis patients. As energy and fluids are essential to repair the pancreas, the intravenous fluids are given to stop dehydration.
In case of bile duct obstructions, a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is advised. The ERCP helps in diagnosing and repairing the bile duct. When gallstones are found, the gallbladder removal ((cholecystectomy) is recommended. Even surgery of the diseased pancreas is recommended. The surgery removes excess fluid from the pancreas or diseased tissues.
Weakened or diseased pancreas means lesser production of enzymes. This condition is met by pancreatic enzyme supplements, that help in breaking down and processing of nutrients in the food consumed. The dietician or diet specialist may suggest low-fat meals, high in nutrients.