Pancreatitis is the medical term for the inflammation of the pancreas, which is a large gland placed behind the stomach and very near to the small intestine. The pancreas is very important for the functioning of the organism because it produces and releases digestive enzymes through the pancreatic duct into the small intestine. These proteins, together with bile, have the role to digest food. Furthermore, the pancreas also manufactures insulin, glucagon and releases them into the bloodstream.
Digestive enzymes become active in the small intestine. However, in the case of inflamed pancreas, these enzymes become active inside the pancreas and damage the tissue that produces them. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic and must be treated promptly, because bleeding, infection, and permanent tissue damage are some of the complications that may arouse if pancreatitis is left untreated.
Causes of pancreatitis
The causes for the inflammation of the pancreas are various. However, there are two most frequent causes. Exposure to alcohol and biliary tract disease in the majority of cases cause the occurrence of pancreatitis. Biliary tract disease is the cause for pancreatitis in 40% of cases. Acute pancreatitis is most often caused when gallstones pass into the bile duct and for a time lodge there. Occult microlithiasis is most likely guilty for most cases of idiopathic acute pancreatitis. Alcohol is the main cause in 35% of all the cases of pancreatitis. Usually those who consume alcohol for more than five years every day are at greater risk to develop pancreatitis.
The third cause for the occurrence of pancreatitis is post-ERCP. It causes this condition in approximately 4% of all cases with pancreatitis and there are no medications to prevent it. One of the causes is an abdominal injury, because it leads to the increasing of the levels of amylase and lipase. Pancreatic injury, which is caused in penetrating injuries is also regarded to be a cause for the appearance of pancreatitis. Drug-induced pancreatitis is a quite rare incidence, and is usually mild in most cases.
Furthermore, viral and bacterial infections may contribute to the incidence of this condition, but it usually happens in children. Pancreatitis is a condition that can be inherited due to certain genes. Additionally, hypercalcemia, as well as developmental abnormalities of the pancreas, is also some of the potential causes for the occurrence of pancreatitis.