Pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas. Once the episode is over, the gland’s function typically returns to normal. These episodes occur more frequently among people aged 50-70 years.
Even if you are in good health, you can still suffer from pancreatitis, but the disease occurs in most cases in people who already have some form of health problem.
The most common risk factor is having gallstones. Another factor that can cause pancreatitis is alcohol when ingested in large amounts or very frequently. Poor eating habits can also lead to this disease.
What is pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a gland located in the upper abdomen. It produces enzymes, which contribute to the digestive process, and hormones, which help regulate the treatment of sugar or glucose.
There are two types of pancreatitis:
- Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and lasts only for a few days.
- Chronic pancreatitis can last for more than six months.
Acute pancreatitis can be severe, moderate or mild. This classification depends on the effects it has on other bodily functions and the complications it entails. When the pancreatitis is mild or moderate, there are usually no fatal consequences. But if it is serious, the risk of death is higher.
The primary causes of acute pancreatitis are:
- Gallstones. This disease accounts for about 40% of cases. Although it is not entirely clear how this happens, the stones reportedly prevent the pancreatic duct from activating the enzymatic process inside the pancreas. This leads to the destruction of organ tissues.
- Alcohol intake. This accounts for approximately 30% of cases. Systematic alcohol intake, even if the intake is moderate, leads to chronic pancreatitis after a few years. However, it does not occur in all alcoholics.
- Other factors. A genetic mutation was discovered in the cationic trypsinogen that causes acute pancreatitis in 80% of carriers. It is also a complication that occurs in 5-10% of cases in those who receive an ERCP procedure.
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis
The typical symptom of acute pancreatitis is severe abdominal pain. This symptom is present in more than 95% of cases.
It has an intensity that ranges from moderate to severe, and the feeling is reminiscent of a knife going through the back. The only way to alleviate the pain a little is by staying completely still. This pain suddenly appears at once.
Nausea and vomiting also occur in 80 or 90% of people with this disease. First the food may come up, and then bile or water. It is also common to have a fever.
In some cases, other symptoms also appear such as respiratory or kidney failure, heart failure, low blood pressure and mental illness. In the case of mild pancreatitis, the pain is much less intense and the other symptoms can go unnoticed.
Pancreatitis is typically treated in the hospital. The patient must first fast for at least one or two days. When the inflammation subsides, start a fluid diet and then a soft diet. Painkillers and intravenous fluids are also given to prevent dehydration.
After the first treatment , the patient must follow another specific treatment, which depends on the causes of the pancreatitis. This may include procedures to remove the blockage of the bile ducts, gallbladder surgery, pancreatic surgery or treatment of alcohol intake.
It is important that the patient begins a strict diet with a low fat and high fluid content during the rehabilitation period. Furthermore, it is extremely important to stop drinking alcohol and avoid the use of tobacco.
The prognosis depends on the severity of the inflammation. The outlook is less optimistic if the patient is over 60 years old, has other health problems, is overweight, has symptoms of blood loss, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, pleural effusion or shows signs of changes in his mental state.