Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes are unable to leave the pancreas and begin digestion. Acute pancreatitis is a rapid attack that may or may not be very painful. It will normally resolve itself quickly. Chronic pancreatitis is a condition that happens as a result of the damage left behind by acute pancreatitis. The scarring will continue to disrupt the function of the pancreas over a long period of time until the condition gets worse and gives off symptoms.
The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach and just above the small intestine near the duodenum. It is responsible for creating and secreting enzymes that help to digest carbohydrates and fats in the stomach and the small intestine. It also helps to create insulin that helps to regulate the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. Pancreatitis is a condition that develops when those digestive enzymes start working before they leave the pancreas, which causes them to start digesting the pancreas. This causes inflammation in the pancreas that is diagnosed as pancreatitis.
Some of the initial symptoms of pancreatitis mirror the symptoms of other conditions such as the flu and a digestive infection. These symptoms include a swelling in the abdomen that can be tender and painful to the touch, nausea that could lead to vomiting, an increased heart rate and a persistent fever.
As the condition advances, the symptoms become much more severe. Dehydration may occur along with low blood pressure. These create symptoms such as fatigue, chronic chest pains and abdominal pain. In some cases the abdominal pain may become worse immediately after eating. The pain may radiate to other parts of the body, including the back and the pelvic region.
In some extreme cases there may be bleeding in the pancreas as the condition advances and more of the pancreas is deteriorated by stomach enzymes. There is also a chance that other organs such as the liver or the kidneys may fail as well. If internal bleeding occurs in the pancreas it could be fatal. If advanced symptoms of pancreatitis are discovered, contact a doctor immediately.
Treatment of pancreatitis normally focuses on relieving the pain, then changing the diet to reverse the condition. A low fat diet that is rich in carbohydrates may be prescribed by a doctor, and there may also be pancreatic enzymes given to help the pancreas properly digest food. In extreme cases, part of the pancreas may need to be removed to drain backed up fluid and relieve the pain.