Pancreatitis: Causes & Symptoms

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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Pancreatitis is a painful and potentially dangerous condition that affects more than half a million people each year.

What is Pancreatitis?

Simply defined, pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the pancreas, a gland that lies behind the stomach, near the top of the abdominal cavity. This inflammation spread from the gland to the surrounding blood vessels, with bleeding and infection being reasons for further damage to the gland. Finally, digestive juices trapped within this area start to “digest” the pancreas. There are two types of pancreatitis: acute (new, short-term) and chronic (ongoing, long-term). Either type can be severe and become life-threatening.

Causes

Pancreatitis occurs when those important digestive enzymes that help us absorb food become activated while still in the pancreas, causing irritation in the tissues of the gland. A number of things can cause this premature activation, such as:

Pancreatitis

Symptoms

The symptoms of pancreatitis are quite easy to diagnose and impossible to ignore.

Acute pancreatitis: The majority of cases of acute pancreatitis will go away after a few days, and there is no permanent damage done.

Chronic pancreatitis: In the case of chronic pancreatitis, the symptoms can also include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Oily stools
  • Inability to sit down without discomfort
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