Patients can experience pain and inflammation in any part of the body after an injury or due to particular toxic substances. This is often the case with pancreatitis.
Definition of Pancreatitis
Inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis.
Anatomy of Pancreatitis
The pancreas resides in the mid, upper abdomen. It is an endocrine organ with many functions. One function it performs is to help the body digest food using enzymes such as amylase and lipase. The pancreas also secretes hormones such as glucagon and insulin to help the body regulate glucose levels. When the pancreas is damaged, it can become inflamed, leading to pancreatitis.
Causes of Pancreatitis
There are numerous reasons that the pancreas can become inflamed. These include:
- Excess alcohol intake
- Development of stones in the gallbladder
- Trauma to the pancreas
- Certain medications
- Cystic Fibrosis
- High levels of calcium in the bloodstream
Symptoms of Pancreatitis
Common symptoms of pancreatitis include:
- Abdominal pain, often radiating to the back
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased heart rate
Diagnosis of Pancreatitis
The diagnosis of pancreatitis relies on a combination of patient history, physical exam findings, blood work, and radiologic abnormalities. First, the physician will perform a history and physical exam.If pancreatitis is suspected lab work is ordered to obtain levels of amylase and lipase. Elevations in these enzymes could indicate pancreatitis.The physician may also order computed tomography to image the pancreas and look for signs of inflammation.
Prevention of Pancreatitis
To prevent pancreatitis, patients should try to stay away from alcohol and other toxic substances. These are common reasons that patients develop pancreatitis.
Am I At Risk of Pancreatitis?
Patients who have the congenital disease called Cystic Fibrosis, a family history of pancreatitis, drink an excessive amount of alcohol, cholelithiasis, or problems with their parathyroid glands are at risk for pancreatitis.
Treatment of Pancreatitis
Treatment of pancreatitis starts with IV fluids and pain medications. Patients with a gallstone stuck in the bile duct will need it removed. This is usually performed by a gastroenterologist performing an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP). This procedure uses a camera through the mouth to get to the bile ducts and pull the stones out. A patient who had pancreatitis caused by gallstones will need a cholecystectomy prior to leaving the hospital to prevent recurrence.
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