Acute and chronic pancreatitis: symptoms and prevention

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, it can be acute or chronic. The pancreas is a digestive gland located deep in the abdomen that is about 15 cm long. Inflammation of the pancreas is to be watched closely because if it becomes chronic, it increases the risk of suffering from pancreatic cancer by about 15 times. This type of cancer is one of the most dangerous and poorly treated.

Acute and chronic pancreatitis

A distinction is made between acute pancreatitis, which develops rapidly and lasts a few days, and chronic pancreatitis, which takes longer to develop and lasts for months or years. During the normal digestive process, pancreatic enzymes leave the tubes of the pancreas to flow into the small intestine. There they become active to aid in digestion. In pancreatitis, these enzymes become active already in the pancreas. It then follows an inflammation of the cells of the pancreas.

The causes of pancreatitis can be:

– Alcoholism, i.e. excessive consumption of alcohol (alcohol is a common cause of chronic pancreatitis)
– Gallstones: Gallstones, especially small ones, can block the intersection between the pancreatic duct and the common bile duct (at the level of the liver).
– Viral diseases
– Trauma
– Ingestion of drugs (eg carbimazole/thiamazole, carbimazole alone with a risk of acute pancreatitis) or other toxic substances
– Smoking
– A heavy and hearty meal (main cause of acute pancreatitis)
– Obesity

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Symptoms of pancreatitis

They vary depending on the type of pancreatitis, acute or chronic.

Symptoms of acute pancreatitis:

– Upper abdominal pain
– Abdominal pain that radiates towards the back
– Abdominal pain that gets worse after eating
– Nausea and vomiting
– Sensitivity to touch of the abdomen

Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis:

– Upper abdominal pain
– Unwanted weight loss (loss of weight)
– Stools of oily type and with a strong odor
– Diarrhea
– Diabetes

Both acute and chronic pancreatitis can be very painful and resistant to painkillers.

Treatments for acute and chronic pancreatitis

The treatment of pancreatitis usually requires hospitalization. It consists of controlling inflammation and calming pain.
These treatments can be:
– Fasting, the goal is to stop eating for a few days to promote recovery of the pancreas.
– Painkillers.
– Taking intravenous fluids, the aim is to avoid dehydration.

Once the pancreatitis is under control, it will be necessary to treat the cause of the pancreatitis. For example if the disease is caused by gallstones, an operation will be necessary to unblock or remove these clots. Sometimes an operation on the pancreas is necessary. If pancreatitis is caused by excessive alcohol consumption, the doctor will help the patient to stop or drastically reduce their consumption.

Chronic pancreatitis

In chronic pancreatitis, certain medications or specific pain treatments may be prescribed by the doctor. Digestive enzymes may also be given to the patient. In addition, the patient may need to change some of his eating habits, i.e., go on a diet.

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Good advice and prevention of pancreatitis

– Stop drinking alcohol, a common cause of pancreatitis. It is absolutely essential to stop drinking alcohol during pancreatitis.
– Stop smoking.
– Eat foods with a low amount of fat. Avoid eating too many foods high in dietary fiber.–
– Eat in small portions, for example 6 small meals during the day.
– Drink plenty of fluids. We know that pancreatitis can lead to dehydration.
– Try to lose weight especially if you have a BMI over 30. Pancreatitis is associated with obesity.


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