Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, a gland located in the abdomen responsible for production of digestive enzymes and several hormones. The gland is located behind the stomach in retroperitoneal space. This gland plays significant role in production of many enzymes necessary for proper digestion and absorption of proteins and fats including amylase, carboxypeptidase, chymotrypsinogen, trypsinogen,elastase and pancreatic lipase. Furthermore, the pancreas synthesizes insulin and glucagon, two hormones which control the level of sugar in blood.
In pancreatitis the enzymes which are normally excreted into the small intestine somehow get trapped inside the pancreas and start to digest the very gland. This autodigestion of the gland causes inflammation and all the symptoms and signs of the disease. Pancreatitis can be acute and chronic. In acute pancreatitis the symptoms and signs develop rapidly while chronic form of the disease represents a long-term condition which eventually causes loss of pancreatic function. Both, acute and chronic pancreatitis may lead to serious complications and if left untreated may also cause a lethal outcome.
Pancreatitis - Causes
There are many factors and illnesses which contribute to the occurrence of pancreatitis. This medical conditions most commonly affects people suffering from gallstones (and develops once the gallstones move from the gallbladder and clog the commonly bile duct or the pancreatic duct) and those who excessively consume alcohol.
Furthermore, pancreatitis may be caused by certain medications such as corticosteroids or diuretics. It also affects people suffering from duodenal ulcers and cystic fibrosis. Trauma or injury of the gland may be a trigger for inflammation. Several more illnesses are associated with the occurrence of pancreatitis and they include autoimmune diseases, infections such as mumps, pancreatic cancer etc. Inflammation of the pancreas may also occur after certain medical procedures such as endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography. There is a link between smoking and pancreatitis. Pancreatitis may be also induced by snake bites and scorpion stings. And finally, if there is no evident cause pancreatitis is considered idiopathic.
Symptoms of Pancreatitis
Acute form of the disease features with pain. The pain occurs suddenly. It may be mild initially and then become more intensive. The pain is basically located in the upper abdomen although it may affect the entire abdomen and even radiate towards the back. Its intensity increases after consumption of food. Apart from the pain acute pancreatitis also features with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Dehydration and low blood pressure are characteristics of severe form of the disease.
Chronic pancreatitis features with abdominal pain. Still, not all the patients complain about the pain. There is also a poor absorption of nutrients and progressive weight loss. Additionally, there are liver problems and occasional nausea. Chronic form of the disease leads to the onset of diabetes.