Chronic Pancreatitis: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

It is an inflammation of the pancreas that does not improve with time.

The pancreas is an organ located behind your stomach. It produces enzymes, which are special proteins that help digest food. It also produces hormones that control the level of sugar in the bloodstream.

Pancreatitis occurs when your pancreas becomes inflamed. Pancreatitis is considered acute when the inflammation appears suddenly and only lasts a short period of time.

It is considered chronic when it reappears or when the inflammation does not heal for months or years.

Chronic pancreatitis can cause scarring and permanent damage.

Calcium stones and cysts may develop in the pancreas, which can block the tube or tube that carries the digestive enzymes and juices to the stomach.

Blocking can lower levels of enzymes and pancreatic hormones, making it difficult for your body to digest food and regulate blood sugar.

This can cause serious health problems, such as malnutrition and diabetes.

What causes chronic pancreatitis?

There are many different causes of chronic pancreatitis. The most common cause is long-term alcohol abuse.

Approximately 70 percent of cases are related to alcohol consumption.

Autoimmune disease occurs when your body mistakenly attacks your healthy cells and tissues.

Inflammatory bowel syndrome, which is an inflammation of the digestive tract, and primary biliary cholangitis, which is a chronic liver disease associated with chronic pancreatitis.

Other causes include:

Autoimmune disease, which occurs when your body mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues.
A narrow pancreatic duct, which is the tube that transports enzymes from the pancreas to the small intestine.
An obstruction of the pancreatic duct by gallstones or pancreatic stones.
Cystic fibrosis, which is a hereditary disease that causes mucus to accumulate in the lungs.
Genetics.
Elevated levels of calcium in the blood, which is called hypercalcemia.
A high level of triglyceride fats in the blood, which is called hypertriglyceridemia.

 

Who is at risk for chronic pancreatitis?

 

Abusing alcohol increases your risk of developing chronic pancreatitis. It is believed that smoking increases the risk of pancreatitis among alcoholics.

In some cases, a family history of chronic pancreatitis may increase your risk.

Chronic pancreatitis develops more frequently in people between 30 and 40 years of age. The condition is also more common among men than among women.

Children who live in tropical regions of Asia and Africa may be at risk of developing tropical pancreatitis, which is another type of chronic pancreatitis.

The exact cause of tropical pancreatitis is unknown, but it may be related to malnutrition.
What are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis?

At first, you may not notice any symptoms. The changes in your pancreas can be quite advanced before you start to feel bad. When symptoms occur, they may include:

Pain in the upper part of your abdomen.
Diarrhea.
Fat stools, which are loose, pale and not easily removed.
Nausea and vomiting.
Short of breath.
Unexplained weight loss
Excessive thirst and fatigue.

You may experience more severe symptoms as the disease progresses, such as:

Pancreatic fluid in your abdomen.
Jaundice, which is characterized by a yellowish discoloration of the eyes and skin.
Internal bleeding.
Bowel block

Painful episodes can last for hours or even days. Some people find that eating or drinking can make their pain worse. As the disease progresses, the pain may become constant.

 

How is chronic pancreatitis diagnosed?

During the early stages of chronic pancreatitis, changes in the pancreas are difficult to see in blood tests.

For this reason, blood tests are not usually used to diagnose the disease. However, they can be used to determine the amount of pancreatic enzymes in your blood.

Blood tests can also be used to check blood cell counts along with kidney and liver function. Your doctor may ask you for a stool sample to check your fat levels.

Fat stools can be a sign that your body is not absorbing nutrients properly.

Imaging tests are the most reliable way for your doctor to make a diagnosis. Your doctor may request that the following studies be done on your abdomen to look for signs of inflammation:

X-rays.
Ultrasound
Computed tomography.
Magnetic resonance scans.

Your doctor may also recommend an endoscopic ultrasound. During an endoscopic ultrasound, your doctor inserts a long, flexible tube into your mouth and down through your stomach and small intestine.

The tube contains an ultrasound probe, which emits sound waves that create detailed images of your pancreas.

 

How is chronic pancreatitis treated?

The treatment for chronic pancreatitis focuses on reducing pain and improving digestive function.

The damage to the pancreas can not be undone, but with proper care, you should be able to control many of your symptoms. Treatment for pancreatitis may include medications, endoscopic therapies, or surgery.

Medicines

Possible medications that your doctor may prescribe for chronic pancreatitis include:

Medications for pain.
Artificial digestive enzymes if their enzyme levels are too low to digest food normally.
Insulin (if you have diabetes)
Steroids if you have autoimmune pancreatitis, which occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your pancreas.

Endoscopy

Some treatments use an endoscope to reduce pain and get rid of blockages. An endoscope is a long, flexible tube that your doctor inserts through your mouth.

It allows your doctor to remove pancreatic stones, place small tubes called stents to improve flow and close leaks.
Surgery

Surgery is not necessary for most people. However, if you have severe pain that does not respond to medication, removal of part of the pancreas can sometimes provide relief.

Surgery can also be used to unblock the pancreatic duct, drain cysts or expand it if it is too narrow.

It is important to avoid alcohol after you have been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, even if alcohol was not the cause of your illness.

You should also avoid smoking because it may increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. You may need to limit the amount of fat in your diet and take vitamins.

What are the possible complications of chronic pancreatitis?

Chronic pancreatitis has the potential to cause numerous complications. You are at a higher risk of developing complications if you continue to drink alcohol after being diagnosed.

Poor absorption of nutrients is one of the most common complications. Since your pancreas does not produce enough digestive enzymes, your body does not absorb nutrients properly. This can lead to malnutrition.

The development of diabetes is another possible complication. Pancreatitis damages the cells that produce insulin and glucagon, which are the hormones that control the amount of sugar in the blood.

This can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. About 45 percent of people with chronic pancreatitis will have diabetes.

Some people also develop pseudocysts, which are fluid-filled growths that can form inside or outside of your pancreas.

Pseudocysts are dangerous because they can block important blood vessels and ducts. They can become infected in some cases.

Long-term prospects

The prognosis depends on the severity and the underlying cause of the disease.

Other factors may affect your chances of recovery, including your age at diagnosis and if you continue to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes.

Rapid diagnosis and treatment can improve the prognosis. Call your doctor immediately if you notice any symptoms of pancreatitis.