Acute pancreatitis is a serious condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed over a short period of time. The pancreas is a small organ located behind the stomach and below the ribcage.
Most people with acute pancreatitis improve within a week and experience no further problems, but severe cases can have serious complications and can even be fatal.
Acute pancreatitis is different to chronic pancreatitis, where the inflammation of the pancreas persists for many years.
The most common symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:
1. It releases powerful digestive enzymes into the small intestine to aid the digestion of food.
2. It releases the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. These hormones help the body control how it uses food for energy.
Pancreatitis is a disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. Pancreatic damage happens when the digestive enzymes are activated before they are released into the small intestine and begin attacking the pancreas.
There are two forms of pancreatitis: acute and chronic.
Acute pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation that lasts for a short time. It may range from mild discomfort to a severe, life-threatening illness. Most people with acute pancreatitis recover completely after getting the right treatment. In severe cases, acute pancreatitis can result in bleeding into the gland, serious tissue damage, infection, and cyst formation. Severe pancreatitis can also harm other vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
Chronic pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis is long-lasting inflammationof the pancreas. It most often happens after an episode of acute pancreatitis. Heavy alcohol drinking is another big cause. Damage to the pancreas from heavy alcohol use may not cause symptoms for many years, but then the person may suddenly develop severe pancreatitis symptoms.
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis:
· Upper abdominal pain that radiates into the back; it may be aggravated by eating, especially foods high in fat.
· Swollen and tender abdomen
· Increased heart rate
Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis:
The symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are similar to those of acute pancreatitis. Patients frequently feel constant pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to the back. In some patients, the pain may be disabling. Other symptoms are weight loss caused by poor absorption (malabsorption) of food. This malabsorption happens because the gland is not releasing enough enzymes to break down food. Also, diabetes may develop if the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are damaged.
In most cases, acute pancreatitis is caused by gallstones or heavy alcohol use. Other causes includemedications, infections, trauma,metabolic disorders, and surgery. In up to 15% of people with acute pancreatitis, the cause is unknown.
In about 70% of people, chronic pancreatitis is caused by long-time alcohol use. Other causes includegallstones, hereditary disorders of the pancreas, cystic fibrosis, hightriglycerides, and certain medicines. In about 20% to 30% of cases, the cause of chronic pancreatitis is unknown.
Pancreatitis can happen to anyone, but it is more common in people with certain risk factors.
Risk factors of acute pancreatitis include:
· Heavy alcohol drinking
Acute pancreatitis may be the first sign of gallstones. Gallstones can block the pancreatic duct, which can cause acute pancreatitis.
Risk factors for chronic pancreatitis include:
· Heavy alcohol drinking for a long time
· Certain hereditary conditions, such as cystic fibrosis
People with chronic pancreatitis are usually men between ages 30 and 40, but chronic pancreatitis also may occur in women.
Doctors may also use other tests, such as:
· Pancreatic function test to find out if the pancreas is making the right amounts of digestive enzymes
· ERCP to look at the pancreatic and bile ducts using X-rays
· Biopsy, in which a needle is inserted into the pancreas to remove a small tissue sample for study
Why it happens
It's thought that acute pancreatitis occurs when a problem develops with some of the enzymes (chemicals) in the pancreas, which causes them to try to digest the organ.
Acute pancreatitis is most often linked to:
By reducing your alcohol intake and altering your diet to make gallstones less likely, you can help to reduce your chances of developing acute pancreatitis.
Most cases of acute pancreatitis are closely linked to gallstones or to alcohol consumption, although the exact cause isn't always clear.
Gallstones are hard pieces of stone-like material that form in your gallbladder. They can trigger acute pancreatitis if they move out of the gallbladder and block the opening of the pancreas.
The blockage can disrupt some of the enzymes (chemicals) produced by the pancreas. These enzymes are normally used to help digest food in your intestines, but they can start to digest the pancreas instead if the opening is blocked.
However, not everyone with gallstones will develop acute pancreatitis. Most gallstones don't cause any problems.
It's not fully understood how alcohol causes the pancreas to become inflamed. One theory is that it interferes with the normal workings of the pancreas, causing the enzymes to start digesting it.
Whatever the cause, there is a clear link between alcohol use and acute pancreatitis. A very large study found that people who regularly drank more than 35 units of alcohol a week were four times more likely to develop acute pancreatitis than people who never drank alcohol (35 units is the equivalent of drinking around 16 cans of strong lager or four bottles of wine a week).
Binge drinking, which is drinking a lot of alcohol in a short period of time, is also thought to increase your risk of developing acute pancreatitis.
Less common causes of acute pancreatitis include:
Little is known about why some people develop severe acute pancreatitis. Factors thought to increase your risk include:
Researchers have also discovered that people with a specific genetic mutation, known as the MCP-1 mutation, are eight times more likely to develop severe acute pancreatitis than the general population. A genetic mutation is where the instructions (DNA) found in all living cells become scrambled, resulting in a genetic disorder or a change in characteristics.
The main symptom of sudden (acute) pancreatitis is sudden moderate to severe pain in the upper area of the belly (abdomen). Long-term (chronic) pancreatitis also causes severe pain in the upper abdomen. As the condition progresses, fat may be released into the stools, indicating that your body is not absorbing fat and protein. Other symptoms of an attack of pancreatitis are:
o Nausea and vomiting
o Fast heart rate
o Yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes (jaundice)...