Located behind the stomach, the pancreas is a small gland connected to the liver and small intestine.It is responsible for producing enzymes that break down cholesterol, proteins and fats in the small intestine, as well as producing insulin, which is needed to reduce the amount of sugar in our blood. When the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin is damaged, it can cause diabetes.
What is pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. Causes of pancreatitis can be one of the following:
- Many years of heavy alcohol consumption
- High levels of blood fats or calcium
- Hereditary and genetic causes
- Hepatitis B
What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?
There are two types of pancreatitis, acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas, often accompanied by severe abdominal pain, and it is most often caused by gallstones. Chronic pancreatitis tends to develop over the years as a gradually growing inflammation that damagers the pancreas. More men suffer from chronic pancreatitis than women, and it is most often caused by alcohol abuse. Generally, acute and pancreatitis share similar symptoms, with the only difference being acute inflammation usually has more severe symptoms while chronic pancreatitis symptoms are more gradual. Symptoms of pancreatitis include:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomitting
- Weight loss, especially in chronic pancreatitis
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- Nausea and giddiness
Hepatitis can lead to:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Acute pancreatitis can lead to chronic pancreatitis
- Type 2 diabetes
How is pancreatitis treated?
There are different forms of treatment depending on the type of pancreatitis and the severity. When the pancreatitis is caused by gallstones or other forms of blockages in the bile ducts and pancreatic ducts, the obstruction is removed. In extreme cases, the entire pancreas is removed in a total pancreatectomy, together with the bile ducts and gall stones. In order to prevent the onset of diabetes in this case, the pancreas cells that produce insulin are transplanted onto the liver.