Pancreas is an organ located deep in the abdominal cavity, just behind the stomach. Pancreas tubes open in the intestine, transporting the pancreas enzymes. There, enzymes are mixed with the food and used to digest proteins, carbohydrates and fat, in order to be absorbed in the intestines and used by the body. Insulin is also produced in pancreas. It is collected by the blood going through the pancreas and transported. The main roles of pancreas are therefore to maintain the health of the human organism and regulation of the blood sugar.
The most common pancreas diseases are: diabetes mellitus, acute or chronic pancreatitis, pancreas enzymes deficiency and tumor of the pancreas.
Diabetes MellitusDiabetes mellitus can be caused by insulin deficiency or insulin resistance. Diabetes mellitus type 1 is caused by lack of insulin. In these patients, there are no pancreas cells to produce insulin. The exact cause is not known, but the current theory says that the autoimmune disease caused these cells to die, leaving the patients without insulin.
Insulin is necessary to enable the glucose (blood sugar) to enter the cells of the body. When it doesn’t happen, glucose levels rise (in the body and urine), provoking many problems.
Diabetes complications include: damage to the blood vessels of the eye, heart, legs and kidneys and also the damage to the nerves. Patients suffering from diabetes type 1 are treated with daily insulin injections.
Diabetes mellitus type 2 is caused by the resistance of the tissue to respond to normal level of insulin. It is a disease frequent in obese and older patients, but overweight, trauma or some other causes might also provoke diabetes type 2 in younger patients. These patients are advised to achieve/maintain healthy weight and to use oral anti-diabetic medications.
This condition is caused by severe inflammation of the pancreas, due to alcoholism, certain medications, gallstones, trauma, triglycerides, or genetic factors. Pancreatitis causes the pancreas enzyme to burst out from the tubes and damage the pancreas tissue.
Symptoms of pancreatitis are: severe pain of the abdomen, vomiting and high fever. Blood pancreas enzymes are elevated and there is an enlarged pancreas seen on the abdominal CT. The hospital treatment includes: intravenous feeding, bowel rest and pain killers.
This condition is common among alcoholics, causing dull pain. Doctors recommend rest, proper diet and medications. These patients should never use alcohol again, but even with the restriction, the pain might still be present.
Deficiency of Pancreas Enzymes
Deficiency in pancreas enzymes may cause malabsorption, because the intestines can’t absorb the nutrients from the food. Patients often experience oily stools and loss of weight. There are oral preparations of pancreas enzymes, designed for these patients.
Pancreas TumorsPancreas tumors might be benign or cancerous. Even benign tumors may affect the body, secreting certain hormones (such as insulin or gastrin). Pancreas cancer is characterized by the dull abdominal pain, and sometimes skin jaundice. The only treatment is a surgical procedure.