Can Diabetes Cause Pancreatitis?

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One of the responsibilities of the pancreas is to regulate blood sugar levels within our body. It meets this responsibility by producing the hormones our body needs for this important function, namely Insulin. But when a person has the diabetes disease, the pancreas' ability to regulate blood sugar is greatly reduced. And, in fact, the diabetic condition (diabetes) can cause inflammation in the pancreas (a condition known as pancreatitis).

Pancreas Defined

The pancreas is the organ directly situated behind your stomach. Its purpose is two-fold: to aid with the digestion process (by producing needed digestive enzymes) and to help regulate the blood sugar levels in your body (by producing the hormones that aid in that process).

Pancreatitis Defined

When the pancreas is unable to produce the needed digestive enzymes or the hormones to aid with maintaining blood sugar levels, it is generally due to a condition known as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

Diabetes and Pancreatitis

As a result of the condition diabetes, the body’s own immune system begins to work against itself. The disease of diabetes causes the body to try and destroy the very cells in the pancreas that produce the much-needed insulin hormone.

As a result of the body turning on itself this way--and destroying the insulin hormone producing cells--inflammation in the pancreas results. This inflammation (pancreatitis) makes it harder for the pancreas to function properly in its roles in the digestive system and in regulating blood sugar levels.

Significance

As the pancreas is attempting to thwart the body’s immune system attack on insulin-producing cells, it is also trying to produce the needed hormone that the body is craving. This overload on the internal system of the pancreas can go from an acute phase (the beginning of problems in the pancreas, which may come and go) to a chronic stage (in which the pancreas is unable to meet the body’s demands on a longer-term basis).

Symptoms of Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis symptoms can include: abdominal tenderness or pain, nausea and vomiting. Chronic pancreatitis symptoms also include abdominal pain, but there are also symptoms that differ from acute: indigestion, losing weight, and stools that are both smelly and oily.

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