What is pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ located in the upper abdomen underneath the stomach. The pancreas produces hormones responsible for blood sugar regulation, insulin and glucagon, and also enzymes that are needed for digestion and nutrient absorption. These enzymes help in the breakdown of protein and fat.
Pancreatitis can either occur as “acute pancreatitis” or “chronic pancreatitis”. Acute pancreatitis occurs abruptly but can last for days to months. Chronic pancreatitis occurs over many years and is life-long.
What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis generally occur abruptly and can vary patient to patient. Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis develop over a longer period of time and are generally less severe but longer lasting when compared to acute pancreatitis. Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include moderate to severe epigastric (upper, mid abdominal) pain, abdominal pain that radiates to the mid back, abdominal pain that is worse with eating, nausea and vomiting, fever, and a rapid pulse rate.
Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include mild to moderate epigastric (upper, mid abdominal) pain that can wax and wane, abdominal pain that radiates to the mid-back, abdominal pain that is worse with eating, greasy/oily stools with a foul odor, unintentional weight loss, and chronic nausea.
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is a condition that occurs typically as a consequence of multiple bouts of acute pancreatitis, or when one has chronic pancreatitis. EPI can cause chronic diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition (especially of certain vitamins), and gas/bloating.
If you suffer from any of the above signs/symptoms, please consult with your gastroenterologist at Associates in Gastroenterology.
How is pancreatitis diagnosed?
A careful history and physical exam are important parts to the diagnosis of both acute and chronic pancreatitis. Often blood tests, and stool tests are used to exclude other conditions, and imaging, endoscopy (both upper endoscopy and endoscopic ultrasound) are often used together to help determine both the extent and severity of disease.
How is pancreatitis treated?
Treatment for pancreatitis is tailored to each patient, with the goal of choosing therapy that best matches each individual’s disease pattern and severity. Treatment often involves oral medications and pancreatic enzyme replacement, that act on different pathways to help calm inflammation. Enzyme replacement can also correct many of the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis such as diarrhea and malabsorption. Endoscopic and surgical therapy can also play a role in the management of pancreatitis.
Our experienced team of physicians and advanced practice providers at Associates in Gastroenterology can help you with your concerns, questions and management of all aspects of gastrointestinal and liver disease. We would love to be your gastroenterology practice. Please schedule an appointment either by calling us (719-635-7321) or by clicking here.
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