Pancreatitis: What is It and How Can You Treat It?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, an organ located in the upper abdomen that plays a vital role in digestion. It can cause abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss. In severe cases, pancreas damage can occur.

Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas, whereas chronic pancreatitis is a long-term problem caused by repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis.

What Causes Pancreatitis?

The most common cause of acute pancreatitis is gallstones. Alcohol abuse is another common cause of the condition. Other causes of pancreatitis include certain medications, genetic conditions, auto-immune diseases, infections, abdominal trauma or surgery, cancer, and metabolic and hormonal disorders.

Some medications and medical treatments can increase your risk of developing pancreatitis. These include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Diabetes medications (sulfonylureas)
  • Estrogen hormones
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Chemotherapy
  • Some antibiotics

What Are the Symptoms of Pancreatitis?

The most common symptom of acute pancreatitis is sudden and severe pain in the upper abdomen. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, and rapid pulse. In chronic pancreatitis, symptoms may be milder and more intermittent, although pain may become more frequent and severe over time.

How Is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?

Your doctor may order a blood test to check your pancreas enzymes. They may also order an abdominal ultrasound or CT scan to look for signs of inflammation. Other tests may be done to look for the underlying cause of the pancreatitis, such as a stool test or an endoscopy.

How Is Pancreatitis Treated?

Treatment for pancreatitis varies depending on the underlying cause. Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics to treat infections
  • Pain relievers
  • Fluids and electrolytes
  • Surgery to remove gallstones or correct abnormalities of the pancreas or other organs
  • Drugs to reduce inflammation or pain
  • Nutritional therapy

In severe cases, hospitalization may be required for supportive care such as intravenous fluids and antibiotics. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat complications.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of pancreatitis, it is important to seek medical attention. Pancreatitis can be a serious condition that can lead to complications if not treated properly. If you are diagnosed with pancreatitis, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.