Chronic pancreatitis refers to an inflammation of the pancreas – the organ that creates enzymes and hormones to manage blood sugar levels and aids in digestion. The condition either does not heal completely and keeps coming back, or persists for months or years at a stretch.
Chronic pancreatitis is a serious, debilitating condition, which can potentially lead to permanent damage and scarring of the organ. The following are the consequences-
The condition is most likely to develop between the ages of 30 and 40 and is commonly observed in men than in women.
Causes of Chronic Pancreatitis:
A number of factors are responsible for long-term pancreatitis. The most common ones include-
• Alcohol abuse – Reportedly, 70% of all cases regarding the condition is related to alcohol consumption
• Autoimmune diseases – When your body attacks the healthy tissues and cells mistakenly
• A constrict pancreatic duct – The tube that carries enzymes to the small intestine from the pancreas
• A blockage of the pancreatic duct by stones
• Cystic fibrosis – A hereditary disorder that causes mucus to build up in the lungs
• Hypercalcemia – When the level of calcium in the bloodstream increases abnormally
• Hypertriglyceridemia – When the level of triglycerides in the blood rises up
Warning Signs of Chronic Pancreatitis:
Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis do not show up at the early stages. They become more evident when inflammation aggravates. However, you should look out for the following signs-
• Severe abdominal pain – Usually in the upper portion
• Loose stool that appears pale and does not flush away easily
• Vomiting and nausea
• Unintentional weight loss
• Excessive thirst
• Shortness of breath
• Pancreatic fluids inside the stomach
• Intestinal blockage
• Internal bleeding
The above symptoms vary based on the severity of the condition. Painful episodes may last for days. For some people, drinking and eating seem difficult because that makes the pain worse. With the progression of persistent pancreatitis, the pain becomes constant. Seeking treatment at the earliest is necessary for the condition to heal.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
A blood test alone is not sufficient to detect the changes in your pancreas in the initial stages. An imaging test is the most reliable method to confirm the diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend the following tools-
The objective of the treatment is to reduce pain and improve the functioning of your digestive system. The damage to the pancreas cannot be cured, but your doctor will prescribe necessary measures to manage the symptoms of the condition.
The primary treatment methods include endoscopic therapy, medications, and surgery.
• Medication - Pain killers, insulin steroids, and artificial digestive enzymes may be taken as per the doctor’s recommendation
• Endoscopy - The procedure involves inserting a flexible, long tube (known as an endoscope) through the mouth. It allows the doctor to look at the pancreatic stones formed inside. He/she then removes the stones, places stents to improve the flow, and seals the leakage.
• Surgery - The last resort is surgery. The doctor will recommend it only if medications and endoscopy therapy have failed to rectify the painful symptoms. Removing a portion of the diseased pancreas can offer relief. Surgery may also be performed to drain cysts and to unblock or widen the pancreatic duct.
The outlook depends on the underlying causes and the seriousness of the disease. However, immediate treatment and diagnosis can improve the outlook. Consult a doctor as soon as you encounter the above symptoms of pancreatitis.