Pancreatitis may be sudden and acute or chronic and long-lasting due to the Pancreas being inflamed. Most cases are associated with alcohol abuse or gallstone (hardened masses of cholesterol or bilirubin that develop in the gallbladder.)
The primary symptom of acute or chronic pancreatitis is a dull, steady pain that is aggravated by alcohol and food. The pain may be diminished by sitting up and leaning forward. However, ten percent of people with chronic Pancreatitis experience no pain.
Acute Pancreatitis comes on suddenly and can result in a life-threatening disease. Intense pain develops in the upper abdomen and can penetrate to the back. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal distension. Internal bleeding may cause bluish bruises on the abdomen.
Additional symptoms may include weight loss, indigestion, and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes).
Chronic Pancreatitis leads to a number of complications. An impaired pancreas can cause insulin deficiency, diabetes, and malabsorption (impaired absorption of nutrients through the small intestine). In some cases, cysts may develop in the pancreas. As inflammation subsides, the cysts may disappear spontaneously. At other times, they must be surgically drained.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Dr. Klin will need to do a physical examination and perhaps other tests, such as blood samples, X-rays, ultrasound scanning, CT (computed tomography) scanning, and Endoscopy (a procedure in which interior parts of the body are examined by using a slim, flexible, lighted tube).
Since the pancreas produces insulin, Dr. Klin usually orders a blood glucose test and may prescribe insulin if the blood glucose level is elevated. Cases of acute Pancreatitis may require hospitalization. Treatment may include pain relievers, drugs to control pancreatic juices, and possibly antibiotics. Surgery may be necessary. Severe cases of Pancreatitis are life-threatening and may need to be treated in an intensive care unit.
Complete abstinence from alcohol is vital to recovery from both acue and chronic Pancreatitis. If the disease is chronic, Dr. Klin may also prescribe drugs to relieve pain, along with a digestive enzyme medication and insulin as needed. Adherence to a special low-fat diet is also essential. If gallstones are the underlying cause, their removal is generally recommended. In very severe cases, a pancreatectomy (the surgical removal of all or part of the pancreas) can provide pain relief.
Source: AMA Complete Encyclopedia, Copyright 2003, American Medical Association
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